“Everything’s Amazing And Nobody’s Happy”

Published in the Ferndale Record, January 27, 2016

This title is taken directly from comedian Louis CK, who used these words a few years ago when describing a time he’d flown across the country. A fellow passenger was notably upset because of a last minute glitch meaning Wi-Fi was not available on the flight. Louis talked about how it used to take wagon trains 30 years to make the same trip that can now be done in five hours. Despite the extraordinary technology and opportunity everywhere, people will always complain about something.

I thought about this when I flew to Boston from Seattle last month. I used to be terrified to fly, and while I still have a healthy respect for air travel, instead of blocking the experience, I embrace it. I don’t really get the laws of lift, weight, thrust, drag and the Bernoulli effect, but apparently they work, and as Louis CK says, “You’re sitting in a chair.. IN THE SKY!” When you think about it, it’s pretty remarkable.

My experience with family in Boston was even more meaningful than the travel. Flight reawakened me to awareness, to paying attention. This happened a lot during the trip, but specifically when I was cuddling my newest grandson, something I knew I’d miss when I came home. “I should have done this more when you were a baby,” I told his dad. “I should have stopped doing whatever I thought was more important at the time, and just held you.”

I want to be more careful, go through my days deliberately, be happy and grateful for cell phones, the Internet, employment, shelter, family and enough to eat. And to not for even one second take it for granted or believe it will necessarily be there tomorrow.

I suppose this is all about that cliché – ‘living in the moment.’

But if we are not significantly changed, motivated or inspired by an event, or series of events, why are we participating in the first place? Has modern life and all of its amenities become boring, or even worse, expected? Have we stopped seeing every day magnificence?

Here’s what writer and artist Toko-pa Turner says: “This is the true meaning of embodiment: To show up with wholehearted presence for this moving encounter with life. Instead of clambering towards ever-furthering horizons or withdrawing into distractions and addictions, showing up for those absences in our lives. Welcoming our fears and discomforts as necessary conditions to creativity. Loving the gestation as much as the harvest, even while remembering the barren season that must follow. Aspiring, in all things, to be human.”

I like this. Not because it’s easy to do, but because it means we get more out of whatever we choose to do. Instead of slogging through life, or simply working toward another paycheck, we lend hyper awareness to our circumstances, we more fully appreciate living, work, other people and service. In refusing complacency, we become more whole.

Not every moment or string of moments is dazzling. But many are, and we miss them because we’re searching for common glitter to hold our attention when real gold is right in front of us.