A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of dog sitting this sweet pup (–>) for a few days. On the Saturday, once the rain let up, she and I ducked under the trees on the north side of the Mont Royal. We hopped over fallen branches and roots, and mucked up muddy inclines, the waving of the jewel green leaves our only encouragement as we headed for the summit.
At one point, we crossed an older (perhaps homeless) man sleeping with his back against a tree. I paid no mind, but a few steps later, it caused me to remember an important and astonishing truth. I have an easy life.
I live in a city where I can go into a park without worrying about my safety. I have money enough to put rain boots on my feet, and I don’t have to scavenge for food or a place to sleep. Bombs are not falling on my head. I have public transport and health care, a yoga membership and Internet access. I’m relatively healthy and have use of all my limbs. I can push buttons and a machine gives me money. I can board a big metal bird that transports me to places thousands of kilometres away.
In the light of so much magical wonderfulness, I try not to complain. If there’s a line-up at the ATM, I write an email on my phone. If there are delays at the airport, I scrawl in my notebook. If there’s a long wait at the clinic, I have my magazines. Metro not working? I have feet for walking. Small inconveniences that allow me to enjoy the wonders of modern life. What use would it be to complain anyway? Every moment surrendered to bootless complaint is one less opportunity for joy.
As pup and I rambled back, I speculated that, once magnified to a larger context, having too easy a life may be at the heart of many disheartening social issues.
When life gets too easy, we become frightened of losing that easy life. Any event, person or change that seems to threaten our easy life (or, the comfort of our tender ego) must be critiqued and even attacked to preserve life the way we like it.
In a larger context, this translates into:
If we let gays marry, it will destroy our families.
But if we dig a little deeper, what’s really being said is:
If we allow gays to marry, then we have to question the quality of my marriage.
If we admit that rapists knew what they were doing, then we have to admit that our sons could be rapists too.
If we accept that rape victims never “ask for it”, then we have to accept that our daughters can be victims of rape too.
If we give teens contraception, then we have to give into the truth that our children are growing up.
Truth is, the more we become accustomed to having an easy life, the harder it is to understand hardship and the harder it is to empathize with others. Because doing so is uncomfortable. It questions our choices and values, and it challenges our ability to face and embrace change.
Allow me to make two suggestions:
- You cannot control what happens in your life, but you can control how you react to change.
- When faced with change, always apply the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
How would attitudes towards victims of sexual assault change if we asked ourselves, How would I feel if it were me? Or my daughter? How would the debate over legalizing gay marriage evolve in more of us asked, How would I feel if I loved someone and government said that we couldn’t marry?
An easy life, after all, can only taste sweet when you share it with others.