Whatever you do, you cannot find hold of life after a death. Your actions neither grant security nor certainty to what will happen ( to your dear one or to you) after the death. Your actions cannot help address the uncertainties (of path, journey or destination of dead ones). Then, your actions simply becomes the expressions of such uncertainties.
I was asked the other day, “What is the best religion out there?” Then, yesterday, I was told that Christianity was the best of all religions.
I study interfaith. I am often not sure what that means. But, people assume that I know about different religions as one is expected to be “literate” to do interfaith work. And, I am asked questions pertaining to various faiths, some more specific than others.
Going back to the question that I mentioned in the beginning…I was asked this question in the middle of a conversation. “Sunil, you do interfaith. Which religion do you think is the best religion?” I stumbled and fell flat to my face. I have had opportunities to face many challenging questions but not as challenging as this one (especially never at a dinner table full of white Christians).
So, what is the best of all religions? At first, I thought that I need to answer this question. I do interfaith. Come on. I should be able to answer this question. And, then I realized. I actually have no clue. I can’t answer this question. For two reasons, I could not answer the questions.
First, I am not literate in all religions and nor do I have any basis or expertise to answer the question. Let alone, I am literate in one religion whatsoever. I grew up in Nepal. When people ask me about my faith, I tell them, I am a Hindu-Buddhist. I don’t even know fully what that means. I know that I correspond with philosophies of both Hinduism and Buddhism. But, I am not sure what I am. So, how do I answer what religion is the best when you don’t have one specific faith base?
And, second, even if you have one specific faith base, can one really claim that one religion is best (comparatively)? Do you prefer to go to heaven, hell or attain nirvana? An American Christian would probably like to go chill with Jesus in heaven with some miller lite whereas a Buddhist may just want to meditate alongside Buddha. But, which one is the best option, the Christian one or the Buddhist one? Can we really compare? Moreover, can you really compare one “faith” with another without being “faithful” for both faiths? Can you really say this faith is best without living out other faiths? And, ultimately can you live out multiple faiths?
I am not saying that there are absolutely no criterions for comparisons between two religions. There are. I will leave that to our scholars of religions to sort out. But, I doubt that we can say one faith is better than others. Even the most renowned scholars will not be able to find such definitive conclusion. Attempting to present or argue that one faith is better than other may just be like adding water to the sand.
However, one can say, I think, this faith is best for me than other faiths. In this case, somebody can claim that their faith is indeed better than the faith of others for them. A white male in the USA may find Christianity to be the best faith for him than Hinduism (Not that there are no white male Hindus).
And, again going back to the initial matter of Christianity being the best faith, I asked my fellow conversation partner if he had ever been a faithful Muslim. He said, “NO”. I did not ask what were his reasons for saying that Christianity is the best religion out there (he was making general statement, not personal statement if I understood him correctly). I did ask again if he had ever been a faithful Hindu. Buddhist? Jain? Sikh? Etc etc. All of his answers were no. So, a new question arose, “Can you really compare and say Christianity is the best faith without experiencing other faiths?” With the use word ‘the best’, does it not imply that there is some sort of comparison with other faiths?
Nonetheless, I cannot tell you which the best faith is. Every faith serves, and it is “the best” faith for the faithful of that specific faith. Comparing your faith with another in search of superiority may just be a quest in vain. As for me, who do not have a strict adherence to one faith…all faiths is my faith (and all religions is my religion).
(PS: I am not intentionally pointing my views towards Christianity in particular. I have experienced similar circumstances with and among other religions/faiths. However, my experiences are often times associated with Christianity as I live in the United States with predominantly Christian population. )
पिघ्ले निलम स बेहता हुवा ये समा
निली निली से खामोसियाँ
न कहीं हे जमिन न कहीं असमान
सर्सराती हुइ तह्नियाँ
कह रही हे कि बस तुम हो यहाँ
सिर्फ में हुन्
अपने होने पे मुझे यकिन आगाया
By Nels Christensen
Date of publication:
January 31, 2013
Don’t piss in the mouth of a river that flows to the sea,
Nor in the springs either. And don’t ever shit in them.
—Hesiod, translated by Stanley Lombardo
I was twelve years old. My dad and I were hunting on Stover Mountain near Chester, a small logging town in Northern California. After having gone along on my dad’s hunting trips just to watch since I was eight, I was finally old enough to carry a rifle myself. I distinctly remember the weight of it. But in this particular memory, the rifle isn’t slung across my shoulder or pressed firmly against it, safety off, ready to fire. Instead, it stands about five yards from me, wedged upright in the crook of a tree.
Moments before, I had left my dad and moved into the thick woods alone in order to partake in the ordinary and decidedly un-romantic outdoor activity that, to this very day, he calls “taking a dump.” There I was in my characteristic half-squat developed over many years of trial and disastrous error. Pants pulled down, knees bent, left arm shot straight out against a tree behind me, I achieved the necessary angle of defecatory repose — leaning far enough back so that I could leave my mark without marring my boots, but not so far as to compromise my stability.
I was in exactly this position when I heard a noise that somehow disguised itself as a feeling; it was the presence of something so strangely acute as to be inseparable from the sound of its arrival. I looked up and saw four coyotes standing not more than ten yards from me. They must have come from deeper in the woods — where else? — but judging by their seemingly instantaneous appearance, they may well have dropped from the sky. I gaped. They appraised me. Caught in our respective acts, we crouched and watched, waiting for whatever would happen next.
This memory — part extraordinary animal encounter and part ordinary bodily fact — sticks with me as I walk through the Whitehouse Nature Center on my way to the campus of Albion College in south-central Michigan, where I teach environmental writing and literature. I regularly bring my classes here, to this 144-acre stretch of reclaimed land along the Kalamazoo River. We observe and study the natural world, and we write about what we see and feel and why it matters. But the Nature Center is by no means a pristine wilderness. The land, in fact, bears the marks of a long history of human impact — including, as it turns out, a dump.
My students tend to find this fact funny, even shocking: the Nature Center was once a dump. Their reaction comes from the ineluctable way the idea of a dump, and even the word itself, bumps up against their desire to romanticize this place. They want to think of it as their own little tract of preserved wilderness, not as a place where people come to discard old cars and couches. They come here, as they say, “to experience nature” and to write about that experience — which, as I take it, is their way of saying that they want to write about a coyote. About something extraordinary and wild. A coyote moment. Learning that the Nature Center was a dump — and will never, ecologically speaking, fully return to its pre-dump days — messes with the idea of the Nature Center they’ve created in their minds and with their sense of themselves as environmental writers. After all, who goes to the dump to write about nature? Or, worse, what environmental writer would ever write about taking a dump?
Those questions seem particularly important to me because, when we write about nature, we aren’t merely representing our experiences: We are, in a powerful sense, defining what actually constitutes a natural experience at all. Put a different way, writing about the natural world teaches us not just how to pay attention but also what to pay attention to. Stringing together grand tropes about coyote moments — those rare encounters with wildness — tells only a small part of a rich, complicated story at the risk of ignoring the rest. And “the rest” is where we live most of our lives. As writers, we move around in the world, poking and prodding our experience into words, choosing, say, to focus on meeting four coyotes in the wild but skipping the fact that we may have been taking a dump at the time. And those choices matter.
While it may seem more shocking to find human dung in the Nature Center than, say, a rusty barrel, maybe it shouldn’t. Both the dung and the barrel tell a similar story, a story suggested by the oddity of my dad’s favorite expression, one familiar to every adolescent boy: that taking a dump is less an act of taking than of leaving. Taking a dump really means leaving your shit. And judging by the range of objects I find in the Nature Center, humans generate lots of different kinds of shit.
Trackers have a name for the piles of excrement animals inevitably leave behind as a sign of their presence. They call it scat. But I’ve never heard anyone refer to human excrement as scat. Scat doesn’t carry the pejorative connotations that shit does. Finding scat on the trail is exciting. I pick it up, break it open. Finding shit on the trail is just gross. Once, while I was in the Maine woods teaching a set of poems about bears to a few students, a young man named Ryan said he had found some bear scat nearby. We went to look. Arriving at the spot, I pointed out the nearby wad of bleached whiteness and said that, as far as I knew, bears didn’t use toilet paper. Scat turned to shit. We were all disappointed. But what really is the difference between scat and shit? Why does one stir a romantic, outdoorsy impulse in me and the other disgust? Isn’t shit simply a human sign, a kind of track?
It snowed last night. The ground in the Nature Center is a white skin, inked here and there with the imprints of passing critters lined out in the snow. On mornings like this, I’m always drawn here. I know the tracks will be there, and I feel a powerful expectation not unlike the sensation of reading a novel — the developing impression of pattern, the revelation of experience, the unfolding of story. But reading tracks in the snow differs from other types of reading in one main way: reading tracks typically starts in the midst of things, like opening a book randomly in the middle. Something has been there, left its trace, and moved on. In theory, if I follow the tracks far enough in either direction, I’ll find the beginning or the end of the story. Once I came upon some small tracks outside my apartment door. I followed them around the corner of the garage and found the squat, wet author: a muskrat backed into a concrete corner, decidedly not looking at me looking at it. Another time, while following a line of tracks in the woods, my head bowed intently to the ground, I looked up to find the prints leading to a skunk not five yards away. End of story.
For me, following animal tracks approximates more closely than anything else what James Galvin, in his lyrical meditation The Meadow, calls “seeing narratively.” For Galvin, we see narratively when we experience the world with the senses of an animal. Take coyotes, for instance. Galvin says that because the coyote “sees” so much by scent it knows “not only where things are but where they have been, and how long they have been gone, as if everything seen had a gently diminishing streak behind it like a comet, showing where it came from and how fast it traveled.” To follow tracks is to seek and, if you are lucky and patient (and quiet), to find the track-maker. It is a process of reading the evidence of a passing presence, the heft of body, the press of paw, the hot weight of scat. I am drawn to Galvin’s description for the way it reminds me that we humans are implicitly a part of that animal narrative. We, too, make tracks. Seeing ourselves narratively shifts our perspective: It puts us inside the larger story of our presence in the natural world. It requires that we see the impact of our lives — call it our tracks, call it our shit — not as separate from those lives but as the lives themselves.
For those of us with an environmental bent, an important part of heading into the woods is the attempt to erase our tracks, or at least render them invisible. We call this philosophy “leave no trace.” But despite its admirable ethics, “leaving no trace” is ultimately a fantasy: as if we could actually live traceless lives, could leave nothing behind, no track or testimony. There may be no greater example of this than the act of shitting in the woods.
I feel the deep and familiar urge in my bowels. I squat. And when I walk away, a small but not insignificant biological bit of me remains. In the woods, I can’t flush my waste away — out of sight and smell, out of mind. As a boy, I learned from my dad to think of taking a dump in the woods as something akin to ritual. My dad never has, and never will, dig a hole. For him, when you shit in the woods, you shit on the ground, not in it. It reminds me of coyote scat I’ve seen on the trail, prominently and dramatically deposited in plain sight, on display, as if to say, “See. I’ve been here.”
It was only later that I learned a ritual of another kind. Dig a hole six inches deep; put your shit in it; cover it up. And while I relish most opportunities to claim the moral high ground with my dad, I can’t quite trick myself into feeling superior about my new, environmentally progressive ritual. “Leave no trace” practices make absolute sense, of course, particularly in a world where so many people seek out the same patches of “wilderness.” I don’t want to deny that. But there’s something brutally honest, something gracefully animalistic, about my dad’s full exposure dumping policy. As if for him taking a dump acknowledges the bodily fact of the waste, its materiality, its existence.
Whether we dig holes or not, the basic fact that confronts us when we shit in the woods is the shit itself. It forces us to notice it, to pay some kind of attention to it. We must decide, ultimately, what to do with it, even if that simply means doing nothing, walking away. The trace is there, displayed or buried. It’s there.
We are, in the end, waste makers. Food comes in, and shit goes out. It’s pretty basic. But when people get together and form societies, things get more complicated. The shit starts to pile up. And I don’t just mean feces. I mean all of it: the plastic bags and tampon applicators, the diapers and deodorant tubes. All the unremittable evidence of lives guided by what TV commercials call convenience. Wash it or toss it. The glib choice in that marketing hook should shock us. But it doesn’t, quite. I could either wash the crusty sauce out of this plastic container or just pitch the whole works in the trash, and away it goes. Flush.
That we produce shit is non-negotiable. All animals do it. But how much of it and what we humans do with it, that’s a different story. Which is exactly why I find the Nature Center as a location for “nature writing” so compelling. It’s beautiful, and it was a dump. Look closely, and you’ll see it: industrial scat. The Nature Center won’t allow those who go there for writerly inspiration to forget our role as waste-makers. The human waste in the Nature Center — a railway car, beer bottle, or shred of tainted toilet paper — is part of the “nature” we witness there. So we pick it up. Hold it in our hands. Most of all, we write about it, and in doing so, we see it, acknowledge it, and in a way, claim it. If you’re paying attention, you can’t miss it.
Recently, I’ve been reading the eco-critic Dana Philips’s book The Truth of Ecology. He takes people like me to task for treating ecology as merely “a point of view.” We are guilty, he says, of adopting metaphors of ecology without any rigorous sense of the actual science that stands beneath those metaphors. He’s right, I suppose. But when I think about the value of writing in and about nature — both to me and to my students — that vice begins to look more virtuous. For even if ecology for me is primarily a point of view, it is a rare and radical point of view — one that places me firmly inside the story the natural world tells, not apart from it. It’s a point of view in which nature is no longer a place we go to see a coyote. It is the place where we are. And part of being there means leaving our shit there. That’s a lesson that just might be better learned by writing about coyote scat, human shit, or a reclaimed dump than reading a science text book.
Such is the power of metaphor, I suppose. Ecologists and nature writers alike get a bit giddy when they talk about relationships, which is probably why they are so quick to move to metaphor, the stuff of relational language, of comparing this to that. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, if guilt is really the right word. Still, it doesn’t seem overly metaphorical to say that we humans — or at least those of us I’m most familiar with — have a pretty strange relationship with our shit. When it comes to our waste, our knee-jerk reaction is to flush or toss, bury or burn. There’s little deliberation in it, no sense of a choice to be made. Once it’s out of me, get it out of my sight. What good environmental writing does, though, as Annie Dillard famously says, is remind us of the value of seeing what’s there, even if it stinks. And the value with respect to seeing our waste seems pretty clear to me: Dealing with our shit begins with seeing it and acknowledging it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to fetishize shit. I’m not interested in starting a crap society where folks take to the woods, journals and watercolor kit in hand, seeking prize mounds of scat to paint and ponder. And I’m certainly not trying to join the small but vocal academic club “doing trash studies” who inhale (from a sanitary distance) the cultural odeur of our growing piles of crap. I simply think we’ve somehow created a world that allows us blithely to go on living as if we aren’t daily, constantly, producing large amounts of shit. We need to start noticing it.
Other critters do. From the house wren who swallows its fledgling’s fecal sac in hopes of deterring predators, to the raccoon attracted to the smell of those selfsame sacs, animals seem to pay more attention to their and other’s waste than we do. Surely there’s a lesson here. In the case of the house wren and raccoon, and maybe you and me, noticing our shit and doing something about it just might be a matter of life or death.
Life or death. That sounds excessive, hyperbolic, but maybe it’s not. So many things I encounter every day could kill me. But probably not a coyote. When those four canine figures appeared before me as I left my shit in the woods all those years ago, I wasn’t really in any danger. I know that now, just as I knew it then. But, still, it was almost terrifying. Still. The four of them. Watching me watching them. And then? What happened next? Not much, really. Turning in one motion, they drew themselves away into the trees, leaving me there to finish my business.
This moment seems worth remembering, worth pausing over and considering, not because I saw something extraordinary in the woods that day. It’s true: I’ll probably never see a pack of coyotes in the woods again in my life. But that’s not what really matters. What matters is that I was doing something so ordinary when the extraordinary arrived. I was taking a dump, leaving my shit, creating scat, making waste. And I’ll do that till the day I die.
So what’s more important — witnessing coyotes in the wild or taking a shit in it? It’s a silly question, I know. Most of my friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends, and on and on, probably never will see what I saw that day. But they’ll all make waste. Every day, till their dying day. What will come of it? That’s the real question. Maybe, just maybe, the cause of the environmental crisis we hear so much about isn’t that so few of us have come nose-to-snout with four coyotes in the woods. Maybe it’s that so many of us have forgotten that the environment is the place where we leave our shit.
Don’t piss in the mouth of a river that flows to the sea,
Nor in the springs either. And don’t ever shit in them.
—Hesiod, translated by Stanley Lombardo
“Time is (fucking) Evil”
For many Hindus, “the problem of evil” is often of less concern in comparison to the Western traditions and merely a topic of discourse among its philosophers. There are, however, various theological texts with references to “evil” in Hinduism. Wendy Doniger explains in The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology that the problem is not theological but rather of a “practical” nature. There indeed is evil in Hinduism, and it is inherent in nature. So, what is “evil” in Hinduism? After careful analysis of text from On Hinduism and Doniger’s lecture, it appears that, in Hinduism, “Time” is evil. Time, also known as “Kaal”in Sanskrit, is the source of evil and can address “the problem of evil” in Hinduism. Kaal, in various stages and forms, cultivates and leads to the “evil” in Hinduism. In this essay, I will explore Kaal as the ultimate evil in Hindu mythology through a careful analysis of the concept of four ages, the idea of “karma” and the doctrine of “rebirth” in reference to the lecture and the readings from the book On Hinduism by Wendy Doniger. Similarly, I will attempt to draw parallels on the idea of “evil” from The Symbolism of Evil by Paul Ricoeur by looking at “Kaal” as the Divine power that is always present and creates evil that is continued through the actions (‘Karma”) of human (such as Adam). And, I will also relate to Ricoeur’s idea of “exiled soul” in need of “Moksha”.
In Hinduism, one can argue that “Time” works in cyclical form(s). Doniger explains that there are four ages: Golden Age (Satya Yuga), Silver Age (Dwopar Yuga), Bronze Age (Treta Yuga) and Iron Age (Kali Yuga) (Doniger, 2013). In Golden Age, the humans are inherently good and virtuous. As we proceed from one age to the next, the virtue and goodness of humans decreases. Doniger also notes that “Time” or Kaal can be seen in the image of a “game of dice” or chance. The current age, the Kali Yuga, is “the last throw” of the dice and is the “losing throw”. Good in mankind is rapidly degenerating and evil is prevailing. Hindus of Nepal often say, “Kali Yuga is here” when someone acts in an extremely unethical way (sexual intercourse with one’s kin) or commits a violent crime (murder of one’s own child). The end will come, and the Golden Age will follow. In other words, Kaal is always there to get you. This shows that Kaal is inherently evil in nature. We are the puppets of Kaal functioning in the game of “degeneration”. This nature of Kaal through ages can be seen in parallel to Ricoeur’s idea of “evil” in terms of “Tragic Myth”. Ricoeur argues that “evil is as old as the oldest of beings” and “that man is not the origin of evil”; rather, he “continues it” (Ricoeur 1969, 178). Similarly, the wicked Kaal is at work creating evil among humans. And, humans further cultivate (or not) evil with their “Karma” (actions). Even in the beginning of Golden age, the “degeneration” starts right away and leads us to the next age. Kaal, not man, is the agent that is responsible for degeneration and is inherently evil.
Kaal, then, leads to “Karma” that can be explored using “Karma Theory” (Doniger 2013, 103). Karma is “morally charged actions, either good or bad” (Doniger 2013, 93), that has consequences in the past, present and future beyond the boundaries of one specific lifetime. One’s Karma in the past can attribute to the present life of an individual, which ultimately determines the fate of that individual’s life (rebirth, heaven, hell or Moksha) (Doniger 2013, 93). One goes through this circle in life and beyond until their tally of good and bad karma is balanced. Many Hindus argue that such a circle is not a good thing and prefer not to go through the circle (Doniger 2013, 94). With Kaal looming over mankind, individuals have to go through the circle of “Karma” regardless of the nature of their actions; as Doniger argues, “consequences have consequences” (93). Such a never-ending circle of Karma within the manifestation of Kaal, then, inherently comprises evil. In accordance with Ricoeur, “Karma” can be seen as most closely related to the idea of “guilt”. In Karma theory, one’s actions, good or bad, play an ultimate role in deciding the fate of their life. Similarly, the “guilt leads in the direction of an ethico-juridical reflection on the relation of penalty to responsibility” (Ricoeur 1969, 100). Moreover, Ricoeur’s presentation of Adam (human) and his actions (eating the apple) in Adamic Myth can be seen in parallel with Doniger’s explanation (in lecture) of Manu and his actions (due to lust, anger and deception). Both Adam and Manu suffer the consequences of their “Karma”. And, in both cases, one can argue that there is some external agent (Kaal, serpent or God) that gives rise to the evil. However, I should note that we should be careful in our attempt, as Doniger warns, to align perfectly with the idea of “evil” or of anything else across the traditions.
Although it is challenging to define the doctrine of rebirth in the context of Ricoeur’s work, it can be explored in the context of Karma and death. The quality of rebirth or reincarnation is based on Karma. If your tally of Karma suggests that you were predominantly good in your past life, you are likely to have “rebirth” into a good life. With a tally that is predominantly of bad karma, you are more likely to have a “rebirth” into a bad life. For example, a man that has killed and eaten a sheep will be reborn as a sheep and be eaten by the people. One “dies” and is “born” again and again unless the balance of good and bad Karma is attained. Doniger states “how terrible to go on getting old and dying, over and over again” (Doniger 2013, 92). Such “redeath” is indeed evil. However, Doniger mentions that an individual may have a choice upon culmination of good karma. One can choose to continue this circle of rebirth or reincarnation, or one can attain “Moksha”: the ultimate liberation from this circle of rebirth (Doniger 2013, 92). Similarly, Ricoeur poses a question about an “exiled soul” that “is there a more frightening idea than that which makes life a rebirth to punishment?” (Ricoeur 1969, 287) Ricoeur also argues that “the soul is in the prison of body”; it is in “the existence of an exiled being that longs for its liberation” (Ricoeur 1969, 287). Such an entrapment of the soul in the body can be seen as the need for the soul to attain “Moksha”. However, we cannot absolutely claim that nature of evil is the same in the context of both above-mentioned traditions. Nonetheless, in the cycle of rebirth, evil is present within the individual in the form of death that keeps one wheeling in the circle of rebirth. And, ultimately, Kaal is responsible for one’s death and so responsible for the “evil”.
Kaal, moving through ages leading into the cycle of karma and rebirth, can be argued as the ultimate reason behind the “evil” in mankind and the solution to “the problem of evil” in Hinduism. Unlike in The Symbolism of Evil, there is no God that intentionally plants evil in humans or God that hates them. It is simply by “chance” or Kaal that there is evil. Similar to Divine power in Tragic Myth, Kaal is continuously at work in creating evil. Human actions (Karma) then further cultivate the evil among them in a similar fashion as Adam “continues” evil in Adamic Myth. In the meantime, Karma is the only way to attain Moksha and liberate your “soul” from the cycle of rebirth. Contrary to other mythologies, in Hinduism, one can indeed escape evil and move on to “Moksha” by the virtue of their actions irrespective of Kaal’s continuous degeneration. However, Doniger (in her lecture) notes that “Moksha” is not easy; it is very difficult to be virtuous when Kaal is continuously at work. Such consistency and complexity of Kaal and its inherent process of degeneration is the true nature of “evil”. Hence, in these circles within circles of life and beyond, the evil is consistently present in each circle put in motion by virtue of “Kaal”. Indeed, Kaal is evil, and the essence of evil is kaal.
I wrote this essay for my Religious studies class, and this is probably one of essays that I enjoyed writing the most in my academic career. Thanks to Christin Spoolstra for edits and Sean Hannan for comments.
I recently realized that I have lived in this country, the Great nation of The United States of America (no sarcasm intended), for almost 5+ years, and that I am increasingly faced with First World problems.
Although, like for any Americans, citizens of Western societieswould have some sense of what “First World Problems” mean. Regardless, let me attempt to reiterate the definition again as I see it — on the internet.
KnowYourMeme says First World Problems, also known as “White Whine,” are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences. And, the website credits the origins of the phrase to a Canadian band named “Matthew Good Band” and their song “Omission of the Omen”. Oh, them, Canadians! They must have been talking about their dear neighbors, the Americans.
Urban Dictionary defines the term as: Problems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders ( I don’t think this is a real English word, but its Urban dictionary, so…) would probably roll their eyes at.
And, first-world-problems.com notes that it isn’t easy being a privileged citizen of a developed nation, and they have setup a blog as a catalog of the unending ways it’s lonely at the top. (Here, I am rolling my eyes…and I can do that because I am a “third worder” ).
Then, finally, how does a “third worlder” (I am making this term mine, UD) define “First World Problems” who is living in a First World but grew up in a Third World and it currently facing multiple First World Problems?
This morning I woke up at 7:45 am, and got into a bus right in front of my apartment. I walked total of 10 feet, may be less. I sat in an almost empty bus that lowered itself to my level so that I can get into the bus, and it was warm and toasty inside the bus unlike -10 F outside.
Then, I realized that the bus was going awfully slow. It was taking the bus to get to my regular stop 40 minutes instead of 20 minutes. I was starting to get anxious and frustrated. I had to make it to my class on time. But, then I realized, I walked 2 hours every day, one way, to get to my school on a rough terrain and road for more than 8 years when I was in Nepal.
Then, on the next stop, I was waiting for my connecting bus. It usually takes 5-10 minutes wait to connect with the next bus. However, this time it took me 30 minutes before I got into the next bus. The waiting outside was very “painful” as it was cold, very cold, rather freezing. And, I was pacing and walking around the bus stop. Although, I was fully clothed with layers and layers of clothing, I was having very hard time standing and waiting for the bus. Then, a “homeless” guy (as I can tell from his big trash-bag full of belongings and his request for money as he “didn’t have place to be” ) stopped by the bus stop. Although, it looked like he has coats and shoes on, he looked cold and miserable (as I was) as indicated by his watery eyes and runny nose. I then thought, he actually lives out here. He lived out on the streets of Chicago when the city hit one of the lowest temperature readings of -16 F this past week. And, then there I was heading to the world class University in a warm bus to go to a classroom that is most likely to be overheated.
I am realizing, as I am pacing and hating being out there in the cold, I am having the “First World Problems”. Such “white whines” and complains were among one of the cultural etiquette of the American society that I was hoping to avoid during my stay here. Yet, I had fallen into it.
I have become more “whiny”, and I complain about a lot of things much more than I did yesterday, the day before, the week before and the year before. I am getting comfortable in the warm cocoon of “easy life” of the West. And, it is so easy, so so easy, to get into that cocoon and knot your cozy place.
However, I am not suggesting that I am some kind of crazy obsessed with self deprecation or hardship or in denial of comforts of life. I have simply realized that I have started to appreciate less. I am taking more and more things as if they are “granted” to me. I appreciate the small comforts of my life less and less than I used to. And, I have totally got myself lost myself in the lala land of efficient life.
And, if it is that “easy” and “quick” for a “third worlder” to get lost into the comfort of the first world, then I cannot really point my finger to a first worlders, who has always experienced these problems. For the first wrolders, these problems are their “primary” problems same as to “primary” problems in the third world. In both worlds, the people are (more or less) experiencing same implications due to their “primary” life problems.
With that said, relatively looking, yes, I can roll eyes at you “first worlders” if you are bitching about dirt in your shoes when a third worder could never afford a pair of shoes in his/her whole life. I am also rolling my eyes at myself every time I start “bitching” about first world problems, while at the same time I am going to enjoy the “little comforts” of life as I appreciate being able to afford those comforts.
I will be noting and posting more “First World Problems” in coming weeks. But for now, I want conclude with these Canadian words,
"Omissions Of The Omen"
Wait for me if I don’t show up
Take from me this hypocrite’s cup
And somewhere around the world
Someone would love to have my first world problems
Kill the moon and turn out the sun
Lock your door and load your gun
Free at last now the time has come to choose
Man makes god so god can make man
Man makes the devil so that he can understand
Why it is that every day,
Everything always turns out this way
You and me we were never here
You and me we were not that clear
You and me we died a long, long time ago
Don’t think just come along
Do believe that it won’t belong
Everything’s open all night and all day anyway
Build me a ship of wood and steel
Bring me a net and fishing reel
Sail me to the place where I can find my brother
Safe and sound
Wait for me if I don’t show up
Take from me this hypocrite’s cup
And kill the moon and turn out the sun
Omissions of the omen
How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country.
The Mourning Bride
As you’ll answer it, take heed
This Slave commit no Violence upon
Himself. I’ve been deceiv’d. The Publick Safety
Requires he should be more confin’d; and none,
No not the Princes self, permitted to
Confer with him. I’ll quit you to the King.
Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent
The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn’d;
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.
by William Congreve
(Source: , via yoga9vipassana)