Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy

At my book club meeting last Sunday evening I had a conversation with several friends about the simple act of appreciating all of the incredible things that we as Americans living in Northern California at the dawn of the 21st century have available to us. And I'm not just talking about how we can drive a few hours in one direction to the snow or a few hours in the other direction to the beach or a few hours in another direction to wine country (all of which is really, really cool).

I'm talking about all of the little things that I personally try very hard to appreciate every time I experience them: going to sleep in a big soft bed with clean sheets every night, taking a steaming hot shower wrapped in clean tile every morning, popping open a nice bottle of Pinot Noir in the evening and taking that first bite of a juicy, medium rare steak minutes off the grill shortly thereafter. Not only will the vast majority of human beings on the planet right now never get to indulge in these seemingly simple pleasures most of us here usually take for granted most of the time, but the vast majority of people to have ever walked the Earth most likely never even knew that such pleasures existed.

And those are the thoughts that went through my mind when I watched this video of Louis CK on Conan O'Brien's show the other night decrying the general ennui prevalent across our great nation in the midst of (despite the narratives being sung recently in the 24 hour news media) one of the most prosperous times in the absolute most prosperous nation ever to exist on this planet:

I can't honestly say that I'm always happy with my life and everything in it but I do try to make a concerted effort to be particularly mindful, and especially thankful, for all of the wonderful things I've seen and experienced thus far with what little time has been afforded to me on this planet. Here's hoping that the rest of you are doing the same.


AmPowerBlog said...

I have a post on comment moderation, track-backed to Brain Rage ...

Anonymous said...

Some poignant reflections here. If everyone in the world consumed at North American rates of consumption, some statistics show that we would need at least 3 more planet earths to sustain it.

Sometimes its easier to put things into perspective when we have these mind numbing comparisons:

"An expenditure of five cents per person would save the sight of 100,000 children who are blinded annually because of a vitamin A deficiency, and a mere three dollars each would immunize them against poliomyelitis, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, and measles. One year's expenditure by the U.S. cosmetics industry would provide 1.6 billion people with sanitation."

I"d have to go dig up my human geography text to locate some more of these staggering statistics.

Here's an awesome cartoon video called "story of stuff" that neatly sums up the art of consumption and why we're headed to the gutters if we keep going at current rates.


There are many pundits who claim that "consumers" are reluctant to make that "big ticket purchase" and so on. It really begs the question of whether we are creating demands where a natural demand for something doesn't necessarily exist? Are we really helping ourselves, our future and the sustainance of the planet by allowing corporate entities to create artificial demands, where a natural demand doesn't exist?

I am sorry that I don't have all the answers like our Christian American bigot (aka the Professor), but I sure do have plenty of questions.

Holy jeebus, scrolling up, I think I just had an "explosion", hopefully its not a grace one.



Doug"e" said...

Yeah JBW, I concur, people who live here in the United States need to come out of the "fog of entitlement" that a lot of folks operate under. That's one reason I think travel (as in abroad) is so mind expanding. Once you've actually witnessed people living in cardboard houses it makes it hard to come home and bitch about your crappy little apartment.
I read somewhere that there are 2 things that frustrate a man (or a woman) so....
One is not getting what he wants and the other is getting what he wants. Because that begs the eternal question, Now what?
CS I watched that video on the "story of stuff" and really liked the part about consumerism.
You see most people operate under the mistaken belief that by buying something that will make them happy. Well maybe temporarily. Compare the feelings you have when you go out to your driveway and see your "old car" and then when you see your "old friend".
Happiness might be a little more complicated than "stopping to smell the roses every once in a while". As for me I try to keep it simple by trying to do two things everyday:
1.) is be thankful for something...anything.
2.) Have something to look forward to..
That seems to get me through the day. How about you?

JBW said...

Barring those two things Doug"e", three others get me through my day: wine, vodka and other illegal substances that I probably shouldn't list online. Of course yours and CS's suggestions are good ones too but I like to stick to the basics. Call me old fashioned if you will...

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

The great golfer Ben Hogan said "Anyone who doesn't live in California is a victim of circumstance." I was there twice in my life. That was enough to convince me that Hogan was correct.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, the thing was that we would have flying cars when we grew up. We never thought about anything like the internet, which is way cooler.

Actually, I believe the gov't is keeping the clamps on the flying car. Have you seen how people drive the ones with 4 wheels on the ground?

If someone lives in a first world country, these are the best times ever.

Intrepid Californio said...

We are all rats in a cage. It's a nice cage however.