Luxury Problems

1.3.17






Do you ever feel like your thoughts and feelings don't even seem relevant in this troubled world? 

My joys, delights, my struggles and pains, just seem minuscule when considering the state of affairs in the world. In light of terrible politics and poverty, my artwork and artistic pursuits also feel like they aren't really relevant and don't add much to the betterment of the world.
At times I feel guilty sharing about these delightful things and somewhat trivial problems with all the tragedy in the news and all the wars that people are living in. But I really don’t feel it my calling to bring light to those tragic things. I feel strong desire to share the beauty that I find in the world and to share my experience of life. I want to share my experience living a privileged creative lifestyle. It sounds so luxurious. It really is. 

Dom (my husband) and I both grew up with parents who are missionaries. They lived lives of service, teaching and helping people in developing countries. They felt called to move their families across the seas, partly for adventure, I am sure, but mostly because they wanted to help people and live selfless lives. 

Is not the life of an artist, such a narcissistic life to lead? At least as an art teacher, I was teaching others about creativity and making, which was at least somewhat altruistic. 

Dom and I were listening to a podcast about having different points of reference for suffering. I think it was a "This American Life" episode. One woman shared about how her mother was jewish and the mother's reference point of pain and suffering was based on the Holocaust. In affect, the woman who was sharing the story, the daughter, her problems were so trivial to her mother in the grand scope of things. There was no empathy for her teenage heartache or being bullied at school. The daughter's struggles were never as painful as what her people had been through. This lack of empathy was very difficult to live with. It discounted any pain that the daughter had experienced.
My experience was nothing like this. My pains were acknowledged, listened to and considered legitimate, growing up. But I do feel as though I have lived in this paradoxical frame of reference. Growing up in Thailand with several poor/poorer people around me, helped me keep my problems in perspective. 

Usually when I have pain or suffering, I often think about those who are suffering more than me, to put my suffering in perspective. When going through a miscarriage, I had a lot of physical pain. However, imagining people who have chronic, consistent pain made my physical pain some what banal. Same goes for when Dominik and I broke down in our van in Denmark. We were frustrated and disappointed but, we both thought about the thousands of refugees living in camps in Europe today and their journey to the unknown future on their way here. They weren’t expecting to be in refugee camps for years in Greece. Our vanlife problems just were nothing in comparison with people fleeing persecution and war and now stuck in limbo. 


Dominik also feels the same way, maybe more extreme than me. His father’s favorite line to say when there is a pause in conversation is “Mensch, gehts uns gut!” “Man, we have it good.” It is nice to hear and to be reminded of. But it also has a tinge of reminder that others are not as privileged and taken care of as we are. It’s a grateful comment, but reminds me of others' suffering, which makes it hard to enjoy and actually be grateful. Dominik also saw more poverty growing up, than I did. He lived in places that had conflicts occurring nearby. I was in an international school bubble and my jr high problems were not brushed off because of a "real suffering" frame of reference quite as much. 
I suppose I have a similar conclusion to "This American Life," in that, neither way to live is perfect. It's not healthy to live in a bubble and never think of the suffering in the world. And it's not healthy to discount our struggles and pain all the time in light of the suffering of others. Neither one is healthy, but it may be most healthy to live in this paradox. Knowing that our problems are luxury problems, but acknowledging them as legitimate pain and suffering none the less. 

How do you live with this paradox? What are your frame of reference in terms of pain and suffering?

Thanks for reading lovelies,

Anna

*My narcissistic art-making is pretty much all I want to do. How can I justify this, coming from a family who's lives are dedicated to service and self sacrifice? I guess I may have to work through this in another post...


1 comment

  1. Loved this post! I recognize these thoughts from my own life but have never expressed them as well as you do here. Accepting life in a paradox, in a complex world, really seems like the answer to be able to feel and act in solidarity without becoming too paralyzed to live.

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