Surely you must see. Surely you must understand. Don’t you know rockets are falling all over Gaza and Israel? Do you not read that more than 100 people have died already in brutal and insidious fighting that’s been going on since God was knee-high to a bogus misconception?
Jesus Christ, quit whining about Twinkies already. Stop anonymous commenting about your little pet peeve social issue tech glitch culture itch fashion bitch. You do not have it so bad. You have never, comparatively speaking and with the proper sort of lens in place, had it so bad.
Don’t you understand the planet is ever at peril? Surely you’re aware that we’ve had 332 straight months that were warmer than average, and even the notoriously heartless World Bank is a nervous wreck about it?
Surely you know diseases and wars are ravaging Africa, that factory pollution in China is causing cancer rates to skyrocket, that it is just slightly pathetic that American teenage girls hate on each other so violently on Facebook, when a 14-year-old girl in Afghanistan just got shot in the face for suggesting that teenage girls are actually human in the first place?
You gotta keep it in check. Should there be a note of shame attached to any CEO bitching about health care reform by threatening to add eight cents to the price of barely edible chain pizzas? Maybe. Should anyone feel a little stupid spending two hours writing raging diatribes about how the iPad Mini does not having a Retina display? Probably. Are you upset that someone who has better taste than you dared to suggest that “Twilight” is unwatchable swill best tolerated while completely smashed drunk? Hush now. First World problems are no problems at all.
Or are they? See, there is a strange relativity clause in American culture whereby we, being a comparatively isolated social and ideological landmass, being wildly solipsistic, being all up in our own s–t every single day because we think we’re the noblest and greatest country that ever was, when, historically speaking, we’re really more like 137th, think we have serious troubles. Life-threatening troubles. Dead-serious troubles.
And in some ways, we do. Our economy is struggling. People are going without jobs for a long periods of time. Health care is still a mess. Old white guys are running more scared than ever. Obesity is a plague. Young, insipidly kowtowing Republicans still claim they don’t know how old the Earth actually is. Black Friday is now Black Thursday Evening, beginning right after Thanksgiving dinner, where you gave thanks for not getting trampled to death by rabid shoppers at Walmart trying to save 20 bucks on a crappy $69 Blu-ray player that will quickly find its way into a local landfill you have no idea exists but which is right now poisoning the groundwater and giving your kids cancer because we have no concept of what’s really going on, and never really did, and that’s just the way the PTB at monoliths like Walmart like it. See? Now that’s a problem.
Do you ever pause to collect yourself, widen your personal lens, compare your ills to the horrors of the world? Do you ever take a deep breath and realize it’s not really so bad, that life is a messy chaotic funhouse of beautiful, nonsensical madness it’s just all kinds of freakish joy that we get to enjoy the various polarities, horrors and orgasms of it all for such a short ride in the first place?
Do you express any fundamental awe every morning that you are fed, clothed, warm and you have instant and immediate access to clean water, good coffee, endless love, happy dogs, fine cameras, good porn, free books, decent pens, excellent stemware, stretch denim and reading this very column on wildly advanced technology that’s pretty much indistinguishable from magic?
Of course you do. Anyone with a functioning soul knows that reality checks are always helpful things, that in moments of giving thanks and bowing before giant platters of meat, stuffing, wine and excess everything, slapping awake one’s tired and spoiled-rotten perspective is essential to understanding just how good you’ve got it.
So let us be clear: The silly outcry over the potential end of Twinkies? Amusing and ironic. Genuine rage and tears over the possible end of one of humanity’s most disgusting foods? Disturbing and sad. These are not real problems. These are only irritating little beach balls of white noise to toss about and squeal. These are tiny intellectual cysts, spiritual rashes on the pinkie toe of your id. You know, just like most problems.
Count your blessings, they say. But that doesn’t feel quite right anymore. In the end days of 2012, in the age of a priori cynicism and myopia, we must modify the maxim: Understand that you have blessings in the first place, work toward cultivating more, and lick the hell out of the ones you have like a divine sucker made of sunlight and flowerspit and God. Better?
Oh, and it wouldn’t kill you to give a bunch of them away. For free. Blessings are sort of infinite that way.
Not that I want you to feel guilty. This is not about shaming ourselves into silence for caring too much about seemingly mundane, pointless effluvia. Far from it.
It is more about calibration, fine tuning the spiritual filter. All problems, illnesses, joys, bouts of sadness over even the most commonplace of things, these have a decidedly potent charge, a valid role to play. All issues of the day, whether it is the death of a relative, a bloody war in a faraway land, all the way on down to feeling upset that one of the cast of “Real Housewives” might reduce her breast implants, these all have a spot on the continuum.
But as the wise ones say, you gotta discern. You gotta choose wisely. What constitutes a real problem? What is true tragedy? This is where the trouble starts. This is the decidedly American affliction. We confuse actual issues of our soul’s health and path with bogus issues of pop culture, fashion, politics, fickle emotional fluff. We swap in emotional and ideological bullsh-t for deep spiritual truth.
Why? Because truth is hard. Because bowing down and offering real gratitude, seeing life, your world, the Self for what they really are, this means the ego has to shut the hell up for a few seconds. It really hates that.
Here’s the thing: Gratitude is not necessarily about offering thanks that you are not in as much pain as someone else, or that you’re happy you’re not more sick, more miserable or more dead right now. It is maybe about offering thanks in the form of healing, support and love to those who are in pain, in darkness, locked into some false and ugly belief, anywhere and everywhere. As the New Age kids say, gratitude means upping the vibration in the world. No wallowing. No simpering. Be grateful you get to choose. Between high and low, between hate and love, between ignorance and insight.
But most of all, be grateful you are, with any luck and more than a hint of grace, wise enough to know the difference.