Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Have a Proper First World Problem

One of the many links I visit regularly is this one:

It's a list of different people's First World Problems.  Some of them are very funny, poignant, and appropriate.

But every once in a while someone will post something that shows they just Don't Get It.  A First World Problem is not something that focuses on the big picture.  It doesn't shine an obvious light into the differences between you and the unwashed masses.

Take, for example:
"We have so much healthy, nourishing, delicious food that it won't all fit in our refrigerator."

"My house is so large that the wifi won't reach my room."  

"People who don't vaccinate their kids."

"My garage is too small for my collection of Ferraris."

These are trying too hard to illustrate the difference between the First World and the Third World.  (The last one, BTW, is not a First World Problem but a One-Percenter Problem.  A lot of those often get mixed in with the FWP page.)

A good FWP is something so minor and trivial that it could only be an issue to someone who has all their basic needs taken care of.  It doesn't illustrate the kinds of things that people in the Third World covet, it's something they wouldn't even understand. 

Here's a good one:

"The automatic flush sensor at my work toilet is too sensitive and always flushes too soon. I routinely get a splash of cold water while i'm still sitting on the toilet."

That's one that I experience all the time, and it drives me nuts. 


Here are some of my personal First World Problems:
  • The organic orange juice containers at Whole Foods are always sticky on the outside. 
  • I cleaned up cat puke 3 times today.
  • My break at work is never long enough to go eat a snack, go to the bathroom, and clean up.  I feel bad that I usually take about 18-20 minutes instead of the allotted 15.
  • Now that I finally have time to write a blog post, I can't think of anything good to write about. 


I've been working on one post for a few weeks, but it's kind of stupid so I'm not inspired to finish it.

It's based on this First World Problem:

Shopping in Chicagoland is way harder than it was in my old home.  Stores here (mostly groceries), for some reason, never have what I'm looking for.  And what I mean by never is... occasionally.  I can never (occasionally) find something on my list, and then I have to buy some poor substitute.
Since I've moved here I've sometimes had to drive to four different stores to find one single product.  This is unacceptable! I'm an American consumer.

Whole Foods in particular is a constant disappointment to me.  They often have the same brands that my Co-op in Champaign had, or a similar product, but never the exact same thing from the same brand that I came to love in my old home.  So after much whining and wailing about how Whole Foods sucks, I will buy some replacement item.  I'll get used to the replacement item and buy it for a few weeks, and then... they stop selling it.  Repeat the cycle.   

Why, God, why?  Why is my life so hard?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lucky Bastard

I've long felt like luck and chance have a much greater influence on our lives than we care to admit.  Humans like the illusion that they are in control of their fate, and it's a necessary belief for us to be happy, but that doesn't make it true.

Here's an interesting story I heard on NPR the other day that uses social science to show how chance plays a very strong role in the success of a certain piece of art:

It's a fascinating study.  They created 9 different online "worlds" for teenagers to download a group of 48 songs that they'd never heard before.  It turned out there was no pattern to which songs were more successful in each world.  The "hits" in one world were not hits in another world.  In each world, "history evolved slightly differently."  In other words, which songs became hits were a matter of chance.   


I've gotten into lots of arguments with people about the role of luck in our lives.  For example, I don't believe you can "choose to be happy" any more than you can choose to be healthy.  Why didn't you just choose not to get sick?  I think you can choose to put yourself in situations that give you a better chance of being happy or healthy.  You can increase your odds.  But you ultimately can't choose your fate.

There are way more forces at work on you than you are aware of, or even care to admit.  If I'm successful at something, I could attribute it to my hard work, smarts, dedication, and resourcefulness.  And maybe those were all factors.  Aside from the million other factors that gave me the opportunity to succeed, where did my ethic for hard work come from?  My capacity to learn?  My discipline?  I didn't choose any of those things.  I was lucky that someone or something instilled them in me.  My genes, my environment, my family, my time, my place.  I didn't choose any of those things.    


I'm reading a book.  Yes, another one.  I picked this one out while browsing the Humor section of our public library's new books shelves.  It's Nick Offerman's Paddle Your Own Canoe:  One Man's Principles for Delicious Living

Offerman is the actor who plays Ron Swanson, the rugged, stoic, fiercely independent libertarian on the show Parks and Recreation.  Even if you don't appreciate his politics, it's hard not to love Ron Swanson.

So I picked up the book and am reading it. It's really not very well-written and is only mildly interesting, which is why it's taking me so long to slog through it.  However, what is really, really refreshing about the book is how much Offerman appreciates his blessings.  Here's a guy with a strong work ethic who is wildly successful in his chosen field, but goes on and on about what a lucky sonofabitch he is.

He gets it.

Unlike real libertarians, he understands that you can be fiercely independent and make good decisions that lead to success, but ultimately that success is never entirely your own.