Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny.
Ba dump ba!
That’s my favorite joke. It always makes me laugh. Now you know: I’m really rather easily amused!
I’m trying to cheer myself up. I had a less than perfect day. Waaaaaay less than perfect, as a matter of fact, and I’m beat. Still I have to remember: the reality of my life is that my worst day is still usually better than the days at least 50% of the people on the planet experience.
I have a job. I have enough food, and I have teeth with which to chew a warm nutritious dinner. I have a warm, cozy house to come home to at the end of this less than perfect day. I have a car that runs, money to pay my bills, good health, eyes to see, and two legs to carry me where I need to go. I haven’t lost my home to a tsunami or forest fire, or my life to a murderous dictator.
I love this poem by Wendell Berry:
What We Need is Here
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
The trick is to remember that, especially on less than perfect days, because sometimes it seems like something’s missing, or something is out of place, or not right. If only I had…If only it was…I wish I could…
It depends on where we choose to look, I think. At least, that’s it for me. Not that the problems aren’t there, and not that they’re not difficult sometimes. Life is not easy. Not for anyone. But it is definitely harder for some than others, and I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. My life is sometimes challenging, but it has never been really horrible. It doesn’t even register on the scale of human suffering. I have what I need, though I may not always have what I want.
I think that’s a distinction we’ve lost sight of in this country. Want vs Need. They are not the same thing. We have an idea that we deserve better. I hear people say that a lot – that they have rights; that they deserve attention because they think someone is getting something better than what they have. Better stuff, more stuff, better treatment, whatever. Entitlement is an idea that has taken over our culture. Why do we imagine we’re entitled to anything? Aren’t people in Bangledesh or Afghanistan entitled, too? What do they deserve? Is it just people in this country? Have we done something to “deserve” special consideration?
What about people in Rwanda, or China, or Russia or Liberia? Does our American citizenship make us more deserving? A certain color skin? A religion? A way of life? Are we entitled to a perfect life because we work, or don’t work, or give to charity, or disapprove of the homeless? Are we better because we haven’t landed on the street or in a shelter?
No! Of course, not. It’s all just us, folks, and until we really understand that — that we are all in this thing together, and that nobody wins until everybody gets in the game — we aren’t entitled to anything.
A Jewish parable: “There were some sailors in a boat, which started to ship water. One sailor began to dig a hole under his seat to let the water out. The others stopped him at once. He was very surprised and rather angry. ‘What right have you got to stop me?’ he said. ‘I was digging a hole under my seat, not yours.'”
This life doesn’t come automatically with fresh air and good schools, good food, big houses, let alone freedom. A good share of the human beings on this planet have no idea what it is, or can only dream of what it might be like.
We got lucky, if we were born white in the United States of America, were able to get an education, keep all our teeth, work to feed our children, and have time and money left over with which to get fat. It was just luck, plain and simple. Why was I lucky and someone in India was not? I don’t know.
I don’t think why matters. I think only how matters now. How are we going to make it right?
How can we ensure that everybody has the luxury of thinking about a less than perfect day?