Problem? Or inconvenience? My husband growled that the dog had puked on the rug (again). I mildly pointed out that this was not a “problem” in the grand scheme of things…only an inconvenience. He didn’t take that very well. But he and the baby went for a walk.
And I started thinking: the “problem vs. inconvenience” dichotomy is not my original idea. Some of you will recognize it as belonging to a wise little story from Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten).
And there is truth in it.
But today it seems as if the inconveniences proliferate to the point where we are overwhelmed, and we have no time and energy left to think about–much less deal with–the big PROBLEMS out there, like the escalating national debt and the taming of the welfare state.
Our media doesn’t help, of course. If they’re not flooding us with new foods to avoid, they’re plastering the screen with the latest celebrity-scandal-of-the-minute. (No, you do NOT need me to link you to anything!! You KNOW the kind of story I’m talking about.) We have more gadgets in our homes…which means more things to clean and maintain, and more things to break or malfunction. We spend more time online, which offers more opportunities for slow connections and lost data and distracting games that we can lose, all of which “amusements” make us irritable. Nor do our politicians help matters…as JTR has pointed out, Standard Operating Procedure seems to be to set up a Non-Issue to grab our attention and get us riled up over something insignificant or even patently untrue.
“Most of life is about inconveniences,” I said to my growling husband. I cut my toe because #2 son’s razor fell off the bathroom shelf…freakish, but not really a problem (it only bled for a couple of minutes). Lucy got up on a stool (OK…she actually combined a couple of them: she’s getting waaay too smart, and agile) and smeared butter all over the counter. Inconvenient, yes. A “problem”? Not really.
But as life becomes more complex, the inconveniences pile up and they’re harder to laugh off. Job scarcity means you take the one with the long commute, which means you face the potential of more traffic slowdowns, road construction, flat tires, running out of gas, road rage, accidents (well…now we’re getting into problems, aren’t we?). More brand choices at the grocery store breed indecision and confusion…and aggravation when you can’t find the whole-grain original fig Fig Newtons (there are 18 different varieties of this cookie now…Lucy likes ONE of them) at Kroger, only at Wal-Mart. Sales flyers have us jumping through more hoops in hopes of saving money: ‘Buy next Thursday between 5:00 AM and 11:30 AM and save an extra 35% on your total bill…’
In fact, we have bought into the lie that we deserve to have whatever we want, and exactly precisely the way we want it, at the exact moment that we think we need it. And we’ve made our lives woefully inconvenient in the process. We are addicted to the trivial, the esoteric, the nonessential. Wars and rumors of wars fly over our heads like so many stray bullets. And the big issues…the ones that some of us bloggers are trying to get a handle on, the ones that our elected officials ostensibly need to educate themselves–and us–about, discuss, debate, pray about, solve…those real problems get glossed over by glassy-eyed average citizens who are dazed and confused by the dog puke of life.
Simple isn’t easy. But it can lead to a whole lot fewer inconveniences…and it might even solve some problems.