First World Problems

Boy, life sure is tough for us folks on this end of the economic spectrum. Perhaps this kid sums it up best:

I thought of this because I was thinking, oh, what a hassle it is to update my blog, I have a million things to say but none of them are ready yet – and if I start on one, I’ll have to finish it. Which is of course impossible, because there are other priorities – like going on vacation. Is it sick to live this kind of life?
Hopefully not, and hopefully that cognitive dissonance (first world terminology, anyone?) isn’t the reason I can’t sleep right now, despite having to get up early. What a hassle to have a doctor’s appointment at 9 in the morning, rudely interrupting my carefree summer schedule!

I think we all take things for granted, especially when we live in such comfort without noticing it. What would we do if it was all taken away? God forbid the debt ceiling crashes down and we have to find out sooner than later. I realize that I’m blessed to lead a life where I even have access to a doctor, regardless of time of day. We all need to take stock and examine our surroundings.

So do we really suffer when our computers crash? When our coffee spills on the way out of the Starbucks drive through? When *shudder* our iPhones lose that little 3G symbol, and we are stuck with the “E” symbol, signaling less than ideal broadband data access? Well, maybe we don’t truly suffer in that last one. But certainly it can cause us stress when our computers crash and pain when our coffee spills. Who is there to tell us that pain is in any way less real than the pain suffered by those who can’t even imagine a computer, until they can provide enough food for their family?

In other words, is suffering relative? Is the suffering as much when something is taken away in my world, full of creature comforts, as it is in someone in the so-called “third world” when they are denied a similar comfort that they have never had? For example, not being able to have lunch one day. For someone in Somalia, this may be a daily reality, the amount of food limiting folks to two meals a day (probably less, now, if you’ve read the news about the region…). For me, it would be hard to get through the afternoon, I would really struggle with it. Now whose suffering is more real?!

Well, the person in Somalia’s suffering is truly worse. One day without lunch cannot be compared to a lifetime with too little food, too much fear. However, that’s just the problem. As humans, we cannot go around every day contemplating the destructive conditions others live in. It would ultimately be self-destructive, so our brains block it out. We adapt to the conditions around us, then become comfortable with that level and strive for better things. We tend not to think about the conditions of those at a more unfortunate position than us, even when they are right in front of us!

I think the same applies on every level of the economic ladder. Hence why we think of people who are richer than us as greedy and selfish when they try to advance their positions. Don’t we all live with at least a little greed and selfishness? Some more than others, certainly.

Oh, life is complicated. Maybe I can finally go to sleep now. I think that in life, what we have to do is recognize our human imperfections. We can certainly appreciate our surroundings, living in the “first world,” and recognize the selfishness that is part of that appreciation. However, in order to cultivate compassion, we have to recognize the conditions of others less fortunate, and help them to elevate themselves into places where they too can be comfortable. Another day I’ll deal with how we cultivate compassion towards people who seem to be selfish, greedy, ignorant and worst of all, undeserving (people who inherit their money, for example, then do nothing productive with it). Until then, maybe we can recognize that our first-world-problems are only problems because we have such incredible things to begin with.

Oh, and food for thought, why didn’t Michelle Bachmann ever have to debate that high schooler that challenged her? I feel like when you’re running for president, you’re required to accept a debate challenge from a high schooler, no questions asked. Hmm.

Also, kitty!


About thichnhattim

Radically Moderate - neither right nor left brained, I try to use both. Student, activist, UU. Live life by the peaceful teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Redesign the flow, redefine the know, we're hanging on the ledge.
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3 Responses to First World Problems

  1. malcolm says:

    I came across this quotation recently by Max Picard. Its from a book he wrote in 1948 called “The World of Silence.”

    “Silence contains everything within itself. It is not waiting for anything; it is always wholly present in itself and it completely fills out the space in which it appears.”

    Some of the many problems that face us in today arise from our noise-filled world, where communication consists mainly of sound bites designed to promote some personal, social, political, or spiritual viewpoint, agenda, or action.

  2. malcolm says:

    I love the kitten

  3. thichnhattim says:

    Malcolm: that quote sounds alot like the philosophy behind Quaker meetings, where they sit mostly in silence. I found when I was going to them with my group in Ramallah that the silence created an intensely sacred space. Probably alot of that is due to just taking a break from all the sources of input we get in our lives.
    While I myself am not a Quaker, I certainly appreciate the lessons I learned there. Silence is a very powerful condition.

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