Trauma on the Monkeybars: An Ode to Fear in the Media



I am not usually at a loss for subject matter.  In fact, I generally feel like “writer’s block” is the excuse of hack professional writers who need an excuse for the weed and whiskey bender that lasts for a week, or at least as long as it takes them to binge watch Downton Abbey.  Sometimes, I will fret for a day or two as I contemplate what I will write about for my upcoming blog, but more often than not, something ludicrous will happen out in the universe, and lo and behold, I have a topic for my next column.  This week, however, nothing stirred the headlines but more of the presidential race, and I, for one, cannot take any more of that nonsense.

So what is a writer to do?  Go internet trolling, I say!  I googled news headlines, and sadly, this is what I came up with:

Half of All Teenagers Are Addicted to Their Smartphones, Survey Finds

Trauma on the Monkey Bars? Playground Concussions Are on the Rise, Study Says

Poor Parenting Can Be Passed From Generation to Generation: Study Finds

Zika Virus Birth Defects May Be ‘Tip of the Iceberg’, Experts Say

Holy Infected Mosquitos, Batman- this was genuinely the first four headlines on a major news outlet website.  Call me crazy (which many of you do anyways), but I am noting a couple of significant trends here.  First, their are a lot experts out there doing a heck of a lot of studies and surveys.  Second, when it comes to the national media, fear sells (maybe even better than sex).

I'm a hyper-hypo...
I’m a hyper-hypo…

Seriously, since when did the monkey bars become the bane of our childhood existences?  My daughter recently suffered a concussion, so I am hardly in the frame of mind to dismiss the importance of brain injuries, but come on, as kids, we fell off these things all the time, and no one was writing articles about the dangers of playground equipment.  Heck, when we were kids, these things were made of cold steel and installed over raw, hard pavement, as if our parents were just daring us to fall off and “teach us a lesson”.  Nowadays, playground equipment is made of plastic and rubber, and there is enough padding beneath it to break the fall of an obese rhino.  I am all for a better and safer society, but if smartphones, monkey bars, and poor parenting are the boogeymen keeping us up at night, the way our modern media seems to suggest they should be, we’ll never get any darn sleep.

And these are the stories for a slow news week.  These are the types of “personal interest” stories they now dredge up to garner our attention when they don’t have more global catastrophes to hawk us.  Normally, they have terrorist attacks, civil liberty intrusions, and detestable presidential candidates to convince us that the world is erupting right before our eyes, so we better tune in and have them tell us all about it.  War of the Worlds was not merely an entertaining social experiment; it was prophetic: fear mongering has become the essential tool today’s media employs to garner ratings.  And the sad part is that works.

We watch, enough said.  We eat this garbage up like a rabid raccoon rummaging through the trash you left out last night but forgot to put the lid on, our greedy little fingers holding up a moldy potato chip still stained with coffee grounds, as we motion to our kids to come join us in the feast.  T. S. Eliot once wrote in “The Hollow Men”:

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

If that is so, and I do believe it is, we sure have a lot idiots running around screaming at the top of their lungs about the sky crashing on down.  Why?  Because in their commercially driven desire to grab your attention, that unquenchable thirst to get ratings, they are resorting to the old standby for generating interest: fear.

Fear works because it is at the essence of our beings.  We fear because we foolishly believe we can control the outcomes of this world, that we can hold on forever to things that we will naturally have to let go of.  In this transitory world, all things must change, and it is our unwillingness to accept this that causes us to gravitate towards fear.  We fear for our selves and for the people and things we love.  And so we eat from the hands of the beast who feeds us.

But fear, my friends, is the enemy of your happiness.  It is in the acceptance of things as they have been, are, and will be that we can find peace and contentment.  Yes, monkey bars can cause head injuries.  So can life in general.  My daughter got hers tripping on a rock while running across the road.  Should have I kept her locked in her room for fear of what might befall her in that big, scary world out there?  Of course not, because, in reality, the world is actually a bright, beautiful place, and I want her to experience all of it.  Fear causes us to recoil inside ourselves, to put up walls to guard ourselves from the tragedies that are sure to beset themselves upon us, whether we want them to or not.

When we let go of fear, we are truly free to live the life we have dreamed of.  So go play with your kids out on the monkey bars.  Dangle from the highest bar by nothing but your knees.  Hang there and giggle until you almost puke upside down.  And see your life from a different perspective.

Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works.  Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at