More than maddening - it's a pain in the ass, really. Logically, the best way to focus on getting one's own story together is to focus small and not be distracted by Bigger Things. Taoism has always told me that one of the joys of enlightenment is knowing what is and what is not in our control. Or as my friend Tomasz always used to tell me: "the universe takes care of itself". (and I think the universe is doing a pretty crap job right now and needs to go sit in a corner, but that's me.)
I spend time, for instance, amazed by the stars - keeping up on news from space.com, from the Cassini mission and any up-to-date documentary I can find. Not only are the fx amazing, but it's one of the reasons I am a sci fi fan in general and a Star Trek fan in particular - sometimes things and events bigger than human existence should not be ignored.
But does space, beyond the annual will-the-meteor-hit-us-this-time, really matter in my life? Is it worth focusing on when there's so much more closer to home? The same question goes for world politics vs. local politics: the world is, for the most part, a heinous, out-of-control place. Western civilization seems to be an experiment gone bad quickly. If a meteor did finally succeed in wiping out most of the world, I am convinced any remaining humans would make pretty much the same decisions.
Again, should I focus on these matters? Should I keep a wary eye on all the signs and portents that appear to convince me in what direction my country is heading? Or should I be more regional: a staunch Southerner with all the folderol that contains, or a Floridian? (my ecologic and sustainable life certainly has concerns here) Maybe I should concentrate on being a citizen of Tampa Bay buried in its struggles from a lack of urban planning? Shall I just focus on the suburban streets that surround me or the neighbors I do not know?
Again, it's maddening. And how does any of this outside focus leave me time to deal with a myriad of dancing, whirling personal issues? Naval-gazing has always, to me, seemed the very limit of hubris. There's too much to do, too many ways to be of use. Besides, I have money to make, music to download, books to read, film to watch, dogs to feed, old parents to check up on, friends to have coffee or bourbon with, and the small matter of maintaining some manner of human touch.
Everything from John Irving novels to Mad Men's Don Draper has taught me to keep moving forward. As soon as you stop to analyze the wreckage of today, you'll be cheated out of tomorrow. The storyboard of my life needs to flow like a river: not too fast so that I can barely do more than wave at the folks standing on the shore watching; not too slow as to keep catches glimpses of my own reflection in the water.