(Stop) Wasting My Time

Okay, you got me. I fell for it. You got what you wanted.

But that’s it. No more. I’m done.

columnI, like many internet dwellers this morning, checked the Yahoo! homepage this morning to find a story trumpeting the following headline: “Newspaper runs headline referring to President Obama as N-word.” Thinking that no one with editorial license would be that stupid, I clicked on the link and read the story. In short, here’s what happened: The West View News, a monthly paper in New York’s West Village with a circulation of around 20,000, ran a piece written by James Lincoln Collier on its op-ed page titled “Nigger in the White House.”

I suppose the “N-word” was what was supposed to have been so outrageous in this particular story, but there were so many other reasons to be angry. First and foremost, the piece was actually pro-Obama, which is not such a bad thing in itself, but it was another entry in the “people hate the president because he is black” series. High unemployment, soaring gas prices, questionable military dealings, secret surveillance … yeah, of course, people don’t like him ’cause he’s black. Makes sense.

It could also be pointed out that the headline was nothing more than a blatant attention-grab. Seriously, had anyone outside of New England ever heard of the West View News before today? A circulation of 20,000 ain’t exactly the New York Times. By noon today, though, its name was splashed over the internet because someone thought they’d be “edgy.” No one uses a word like that unless they want someone to notice it. It’s like an elementary school boy standing on a chair making fart noises with his armpits.

What makes me really angry, though, is that they caught me. I read the stupid story because I saw the stupid word the stupid editor decided to include in the stupid headline. Not only that, but I also gave additional thought to what the story was saying and read the comments at the end of the article (which, by the way, you should never, ever do if you want to retain even a shred of hope for the future of humankind). And it didn’t even matter. It was one man echoing an opinion that’s been voiced a thousand different times in a thousand different places. It wasn’t even an original thought.

I was reading an article recently about Joe De Sena, the guy who started the Spartan Race. I would say Spartan Race is the most de senainsane physical endurance test out there had De Sena not preceded it with something called the Death Race, which involved all kinds of crazy stuff, including eating raw onions, cutting tree stumps out of the ground, and running up mountains. Oh, and De Sena might just arbitrarily decide at the end of the Death Race to extend it by 24 hours. Or 48. Or 72. Spartan Race actually looks somewhat sane in comparison.

De Sena grew up cleaning pools for guys like John Gotti and moved on to a successful Wall Street career before deciding to become a, um, whatever he is now. The man obviously knows how to get things done, and he’s the last person I would expect to identify with at all. He said something in this article, though, that struck a chord with me, and it had to do with time.

“When I turned 45, I realized that time is the only asset that matters,” he said. “I realized it was time to start losing some of the things that are non-core – distractions that are easy to get sucked up in. I need to get my time back.”

I wasted my time on that dumb article, and it probably won’t be the last time I waste my time filling my head with useless information. I’m 40 now, though, and I’m watching a world increasingly consumed by foolish arguments and pursuits. Paul instructed Timothy in the Bible to “have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” Whether you’re a Christian or not, I think that’s good advice for all of us to follow.

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