The horrific tragedy in Ukraine – with round-the-clock television showing at least bits and pieces of the anguish befalling such worthy humans – has shone a huge spotlight on…us. And our own worries and dilemmas, mine and yours, which too often torment us in a comparative paradise.
Family issues, relationship issues, addictions to gambling or stimulants, underwater mortgages, repulsive neighbors, lack of raises at work, incessant skipping on channels or computer clicks that don’t provide nutritional value, rising prices at the gas pump – the list goes on and on. Not to mention the health concerns which, granted, are often serious; but sometimes, also, of the order of bumped toes and toenails!
We might even add to the above problems those that arise in people who have fled the eternal winters, deciding to roost part-time or full-time on the coasts of Florida or in sunny Arizona or California. That is, those who chose even more apparent paradises, then paid prices THEY shouldn’t have paid via hurricanes, wildfires, power outages and the like in so many beautiful surroundings.
The 18th century French writer, Voltaire, wrote a short satirical novel, “Candide”, about a main character of that name and others who cross his path. And at some point, he and one of his buddies locate a real Eldorado in the New World. But even though it’s a real paradise, they discover that they can’t stay there, and finally, they decide to leave.
And of course, there’s Joni Mitchell’s well-known song about what seems like LA-like nirvana (think once of the orange-scented swaths out there with lots of open space and a soothing climate); then see it all covered in asphalt and parking lots, overcrowded highways to a standstill, and of course far too many people, plus crime and homelessness – yes, we can now add a lot to the old melodic diatribe of Mrs. Mitchell.
Which means heaven isn’t always what it’s supposed to be? Yes, but not only. Specifically here, paradise, and truly, all the wonderful push-button, labor-saving, and ease-creating convenience found even in Akron, OH, are also comparative paradises.
And there are always problems! There are always squabbles and prolonged periods of pure unhappiness. But now they’ve been kind and mocked, so to speak; they’ve been heavily ironicized, trivialized, and vastly outplayed by the real thing in an ennobled, rubble-strewn Ukraine that has suffered an ultra-deadly Russian assault. You think you and I have problems (and so often we think we do, focusing on them): try them on for size!
Part of ours often being that we’ve been pretty damn spoiled over the past seven or eight decades since the Depression and World War II. So pampered that now even our youngsters often shun the outdoors on hot summer days, given the ubiquitous home air conditioning and princely digital entertainment. Ditto for winter (it’s cold!)…
Versus that beleaguered Ukraine, where tragically women and children had to flee if they could in overcrowded trains to overcrowded borders and beyond; as husbands and fathers of all ages remained in their homelands, paying in blood, yes, heavy human prices in this unparalleled fight against Putin’s sadistic Russian forces, intent on killing and maiming at will . And WE can’t even go out for a walk when it’s hot (or cold)?
Let’s go! Cheer Up! Stop being so insular and self-conscious (this sermon was obviously directed at myself as much as anyone else).
Mitigate all this greed for ever more alms. This also goes for the sports world, where the already pampered pros usually want even more for their “work”; or for Hollywoodians equally inundated with dough and perks, bleating about this or that while living like royalty, and more!
Be real! Really sympathize with Ukraine. Authentically feel huge problems that could one day arise everywhere, even in protected and comfortable enclaves that have long seemed safe on this side of the Atlantic.
Stop hitting those trying to protect themselves from rising violence here too. That is, often ridiculed, law enforcement officials, firefighters, etc. Think Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine! Then you will know at least cognitively, if not by bitter experience, what the real problems are and how they can snowball and multiply far beyond current knowledge to affect us all. And in a truly disastrous way…
BB Singer has taught at several area colleges, including Niagara University.