First World Problems

First World Problems

“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson

First world problems are the day-to-day struggle of living in the first world. Here are some of mine this week.

I had to park three blocks away.

I couldn’t find a taxi.

My air conditioner  upstairs doesn’t work.

My car still isn’t ready.

I had to drive ten minutes for a blood test.

I ruined my manicure.

I forgot my ATM card so I can’t get cash.

I can’t find the remote.

We waited an hour for a table.

I can’t get out of jury duty.

They are out of greens 2.

I dropped my cellphone.

I have no food because I forgot to go to the market.

I’m not sure who I’m voting for yet. i don’t like any of the candidates.

I paid the full price for these shoes and two weeks later they were on sale.

My stomach is not flat enough to wear a bikini.

I said I wanted ice in my water.

I have to wait to use the treadmill.

I don’t know how to tivo .

They made the dog wait for over an hour at the groomer.

My cellphone battery is dead.

The housekeeper quit.

I can’t connect the iPad to the internet so I have to use my computer.

I think the salad had gluten in it.

I haven’t seen a Starbucks in ten blocks and I need coffee.

My cell phone doesn’t work at my house.

While I was complaining, Tibetan monk Hua Chi was praying.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 1.14.35 AM

He has knelt to pray so many times that his footprints remain deeply, perfectly ingrained on his temple’s wooden floor . He sometimes prayed 3000 times a day excessive even by Buddhist standards. This photo really touches me. I found it in a magazine in Thailand and carried it around with me in Asia.  It says to me to use  more time for praying, gratitude,  kindness,  contemplation and meditation and less time for thinking about myself and my first world problems.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “First World Problems

  1. I should warn you ahead of time. This is going to be a very long response. It simply will not fit atop a postcard. Of course, a postcard-sized response contains but a postcard-size thought.

    If you want to skip the interesting parts, go to the last two paragraphs. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure story.” Either that or you can read the back story and some more detailed information simply by reading it all.

    The photograph is real. He, Monk Chi, died a couple of years ago, however. The story is pretty “old.” By the time you wrote this would have been, well… Hmm… May, 2014 was when he died so you wrote this after he died. The story it is “copped” from (not you fault) was BBC (Reuters/AP) in 2009 which was when he was claimed to have been 70.

    A few things… I should begin with this… I guess? My name is David and this writing is for you or, perhaps, for your blog if you’d like to publish it. I’m actually going to type this out for you so you needn’t publish it if you don’t want to. It’s okay – either way. The goal is, of course, to give something. I should probably explain.

    For starters, he wouldn’t have said a single one of the quotes attributed to him. How do I know? I am a Buddhist (but not a monk) and I’ve been in that area on Refuge before – in fact, I’ve cicrumambulated that same monastery. I’ve also been a bit further north of there.

    I know you didn’t quote him from the article but I know the quotes that went out with the Reuters story. He’s a Tibetan Buddhist and they (I’m a Secular Buddhist) don’t have much in the way of a “God” as one would liken it to in Western culture.

    Oh, circumambulation isn’t really anything fancy. Err… It just means to walk around it in a circle. We do that – a lot, some of us.

    Either way, I never met him or anything – nor have I seen the footprints but I’m sure I could have if I’d asked. I was there in 2012 or so and he was still alive. I did not speak to him as I do not speak the language and he did not speak mine. To be honest, I did not know that this was ever in the newspapers or magazines. (It’s a long story.)

    How to explain this. Yeah, I guess you could call them prayers. They’re not “to” anything but more an acknowledgement of something. We sure as heck don’t do it to ease our way into something. There are some amusing quotes in the online versions of the article are about how he was supposedly praying to make an easier transition into an afterlife.

    You pray, meditate, chant, etc. to keep your mind focused. It’s actually concentration. From concentration, you will get meditation. If you can still your mind, if you can quiet your focus, if you can remove from within your externalities – then you can learn to truly desire nothing. The World’s problems come from desire and that’s why you see the devout with just a bowl, maybe some bead, and abstaining from many things – those will often be varied and each Buddhist’s path is there own. As I said, and as how I prefer to put it, “Yes. Yes I am a Buddhist. I’m sure as hell not a Monk.” 😉

    My path is mine – I do not abstain from meat nor do I expect to be enlightened. I can not give up all desires so, instead, I work at reducing them and recognizing them. Why share that? Well, it’s probably a clearer picture if I’m able to give you some color. Wanting clarity – which is a desire. It’s both a Monk paradox and a statement of reality. Buddhists are a rather pragmatic lot. Many monks are refraining from certain foods (like garlic, onion, meat) but The Buddha tells us to never turn down a freely offered meal – which is one of the reasons the Monks own a bowl and utensils.

    They do a lot with their one bowl, by the way.

    Anyhow, I’ve kept in touch with two of the monks Monastery (it is in Tongren) so I know his passage but not the exact date. Tongren is in the Qinghai province and a very open/receptive monastery. So, I know first hand of the story, the monk in question, and that the prints are real. It was quite specifically commented on as it’s not very unique. Let me see if I can clear that up? I apologize for failing to be as articulate as I hoped when I began this missive.

    What I do not know is when he died, what he died from, and I did not know that he had made it onto the global news. It’s not even all that unique? If you see some of the stone floors (yes, stone) you’ll see some interesting formations/wear spots. For instance, they practice a martial art and the students have been doing so for such a long time that they’ve worn fairly deep impressions into the stone. If you look, you will see wear marks from they’ve knelt or even stepped inside sleeping rooms, just inside the door, just outside the door, and even where they’ve stood to light the incense.

    If you really look, you’ll be able to see where the shoes, typically sandals of some type, have been set down outside the entrances to everything from the older houses to the monastery buildings themselves. Bear in mind that that footwear will not have had any body weight added to it and, yet, there’s an indentation. No, no they don’t have magically softer rocks. *nods solemnly* 🙂

    So, there you have it. You’ll notice that, near the top of this reply, I indicated that you could opt to not publish this and that I’d not be the slighted bit offended. (Did I mention pragmatism? Life’s too short to be offended and take offense is just another expression of desire.) You can do with this as you choose. See, here comes the reason that I *really* wrote this.

    But, I started all of this with a point. The point is that 1st World Problems vs. 3rd World problems really doesn’t much matter – in the scale of things. I started all of this to share a story, perhaps you could call it a Koan but a Zen Buddhist I am not. But, a story nonetheless, and one which I’ll take a moment to relate – it’s nearly over. I did tell you that this would be long. 😉

    I want on Refuge quite a number of years ago and I was still learning that I was who I am. This Refuge was not in an Asian country but is in the United States. If you’ve any inherent biases about it being the US then I’d point out that the soil under one’s feet does not make the person.

    I was learning to live with mindfulness, I was learning what desire really was, I was also learning that I was a pretentious twit. (Fine life lessons.)

    I was walking with someone who was willing to teach. I was discussing the day-to-day things, like your 1st World Problems. I was talking about, specifically, not the “good” things that I’d be giving up if I gave up all desires but all the bad things I’d also be giving up. It’s a bit personal but, well, I was discussing some work-related stress and that it was just as hard (if not harder) to let the bad stuff go as it is to let the good stuff go.

    He kindly pointed to a stick on the side of the path we were walking along. He instructed me to pick it up. It was pretty big, it was not comfortable, and I had to speed up a bit to catch up with him because he’d continued his slow and methodical trek.

    I dragged the stick with me for what seemed to be another half-mile. During this stick-carrying phase, he discussed little or nothing. I finally burst out, perhaps a little angry with something close to this, “Hey! Stop. Wait a minute. I’m sure there’s a lesson here. What are you trying to teach me by carrying this dumb stick?!?”

    He told me to drop the stick and pointed to a place off to the side of the path. I did so. Then he asks me, “Was that stick heavy?”

    I shook my head, probably a bit slowly, and answered in the affirmative. Slow and paced he asked me another question. “Is the stick still heavy now?”

    Well, I figured he wasn’t talking about physics and he didn’t use the word “mass” and I wasn’t there for a lesson about how heavy stick was. So, lacking a better answer, I answered him with, “No, it’s not heavy now.”

    He smiled and said, “There, there you have it Dave.” He turned to walk back the direction we’d come from.

    I asked him again what he meant, realizing that I was surely missing something, and he asked if the stick was heavy and, of course, I answered no. Finally, he stops and turns to me and says, “Don’t you get it?” I shook my head like it was full of hardening concrete. He smiled a little bit and said, “The stick is only heavy when you carry it.”

    The burden, the “1st World Problems” are, at the root, the same as anyone else’s desires. The burden is only heavy for so long as you carry it. When you throw away your desires, you’re also throwing away your burdens (to whatever extent you can – we’re really pragmatic) and you don’t have to carry those.

    If you can understand why he had me carry the stick then you’ll understand why he’s a Monk. But, if you can figure out why I went ahead and carried the stick, you can figure out why I am not a Monk.

    If you’re curious, he’d be called a “Lama.” (Not to be mistaken for a Llama! ) *grins*

    Alright, I’m not going to go proofread all of that. It’s reasonable to expect everybody to just be able to let. It’s not reasonably for anyone to expect, more so in today’s world, to give up all your desires.

    When everything’s gone to hell and a hand basket and you are forced to walk three blocks to and from your car then let it go. Don’t carry that weight. Take off what burdens you can. Instead of being mad at having to walk that far, you can try looking around and see if you’re doing so has made someone else’s burden a little bit less tedious. You can use the time to concentrate.

    This comment is already huge. LOL Sorry? Well, no… If I were sorry then I’d have not done it in the first place. Right? So, concentrate if yo want to. Picture in your “minds eye” nothing but a white ball in front of a completely black “background.”

    Try and let it remain the absolute most spherical while holding a perfect contrast so that the edges are not blurred at all. You’ll be displacing your inner voice with conscious thought – that you control.

    If you’ve never done that before then you can try. It will take a long time (some more than others) but it gets easier the more you practice. It’s okay – the goal isn’t the ball. The goal is the process of learning how to make, and keep, the ball in focus.

    I **did** warn you that this was going to be a novella. If you cheated and skipped to the bottom of this message then I do apologize for being as verbose as I am. It’s just a wee bit longer than is going to fit comfortably onto a bumper sticker. Sorry for any typos and if it doesn’t make any sense at all then the email address is a real one.

    I’ve already taken up enough of your time so I won’t much more. And no, I’m not some sort of creepy axe-murdering Buddhist (I don’t think there are any.) or the likes. I was just really bored, I noticed the location/name of the monastery and, when I looked around for other references. Your response is pretty much the only one that I saw that actually seemed legit.

    Seriously… Your site’s the 8th one I’ve gone through. The rest of the others (so far) had traits of patronizing, dehumanization, and sensationalism. To be blunt, some of those sites are quite dishonest. Most of them were “clickbait” types of things. Your has post some substance so I figured I’d send along a thank you. And no, no I’m so not going to proofread all of that. 😛 (Hopefully anything missing from my post can be inferred from context. If no then yeah, it’s a real email address that I used.

    -David

    • This is a very long comment for a Buddhist. Whoever you are – thanks, I had a particularly trying first world day and needed to remember that I could put down that stick. It is interesting that you knew the monastery. the photo was more of an allegory to me. thanks for taking the time to comment.

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