First World Problems
We’re hanging out in North Vancouver over the next few weeks (house sitting for some friends who are off to Europe) so I’ve been straining to acclimatize myself to lazy mornings on a sun-drenched patio overlooking the ocean with good books and strong coffee, leisurely strolls through lush mountain forests, meandering through breathtakingly manicured multi-million dollar neighbourhoods on the way to pick up some bread for supper, etc., etc. It’s been challenging, but I will do my best to bravely soldier on.
In these surroundings, it’s very easy for perspective to fly out the window—for “problems” to take on a perceived significance that is enormously disproportionate to reality.
This morning’s newspaper goes on and on about how a proposed bike path through one of the city’s wealthier neighbourhoods has the locals some kind of agitated. The argument from the residents seems to go something like this: “Bike paths are great, don’t get us wrong, and we love the idea of a greener, healthier, bike-ier, and more generally virtuous city, but could we put them somewhere, well, else?? Somewhere that doesn’t go in front of my house or force me to drive an extra block on my commute? Or temporarily inconvenience me during construction and interfere with my view of the water?” Um, yeah. I can see why this would be deeply distressing.
Yesterday a friend linked to an article about the difficulties of raising children not to be whiny entitled ingrates in a culture of wealth and privilege. It’s a good read—one that is simultaneously entertaining and mildly unsettling. How do we train our kids to have anything resembling a sense of global perspective in a world where they lack nothing?
Come to think of it, how do we train adults in these matters? Like, say, ourselves? That waiting ten minutes for a $5 latte or struggling to find a spot on the beach don’t really count as problems in a world where many people go to bed hungry each night. That having to go through the onerous task of figuring out with remote works the Apple TV and which one works the surround sound isn’t really that significant in a world plagued by war and injustice and preventable diseases that go untreated…
Uh, hold on a sec..
[I don’t know why won’t the iTunes library sync properly with the rest of your devices! I know, it’s just so frustrating, right?!!]
Ah, first world problems.
I think often of my trip to Colombia last year, of the people I saw there, of the challenges they faced, of the virtually unending struggle that life seemed to be for them. I think of squalid tin shacks and poverty and intractable land issues and violence and the many other daily realities that they faced. The Colombians I met tend to come to mind at the most inopportune times—usually when I am mired in the most ridiculous of my first world “problems.” They are unwelcome but desperately necessary intruders.
They remind me that feeling sorry for myself because I can’t afford to live in North Vancouver isn’t really a legitimate response in a world that looks like ours. They remind me that the ubiquitous technological frustrations that seem to be a part of daily life these days probably shouldn’t affect me the way that they do. They remind me that the abstract theological issues that occupy so much of my mind so much of the time really amount to little more than the distractions of the privileged. They remind me that my “problems” aren’t really problems at all.
They remind me to pray for those who have real problems around the world. And to repent.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go try to decide between the beach or the suspension bridge for the day’s activities. Besides, it’s getting hot on the patio and my shirt has begun to irritatingly stick to my back. And the sunlight off my laptop is driving me nuts. And my battery is running low. Can you believe there’s not one power outlet on this entire patio?! Who designs these things anyway?!”