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By Steven Parton
The universe is chaotic, and with its barrage of unknowns often comes an abundance of stress and mental anguish. We may be unhappy with our job, with our relationships, and with our life in general. Or maybe we’re just pissed off at the guy who nearly crashed into us at the crosswalk. Or maybe we just don’t feel appreciated, or we’re mad at ourselves for our performance in a recent project we’ve been putting so much energy into.
The bottom line is that many of us extremely fortunate people let all those little frustrations build up and make us feel broken, exhausted, and apathetic. We let them make us jaded and cynical and angry. And often times these mental weights are not even that big of deal, nor are they things we can even change; often they are merely channels for an accumulating discontent we’ve felt just behind our waking thoughts; they are the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and we get caught up in an emotional tunnel-focus as we let these mental struggles overwhelm and convince us how horrible our lives are.
But there is a simple questions I want you to ask yourself when you’re feeling this way:
Can you turn on a water faucet and get clean water on command? And afterward, will you have a warm bed in which you can sleep tonight?
If you can say yes to these things, your worst problems are largely all in your mind. Your physical vessel (your health) is taken care of, and those things getting you down are merely mental anchors you’re allowing to weigh you down. But you should instead feel fortunate, for you are an animal, and in this moment you are surviving.
This is a gift many people around the world don’t have ( the million residents of Dharavi, India share one toilet per 1450 people which causes waste to mix with drinking water). Sure, your mental struggles may represent authentic real-life threats to your future supply of warmth and water, but for most of us, they aren’t truly pressing dangers to our well-being. And often it’s not even the bare essentials we are at risk of losing, it’s the material things we consider necessary to our survival. But this is a fallacy, a fear that is rooted in a belief that you need more than a bed, food, and warm water, a clinging to culture’s illusory cage which thus traps you within bills–bills for status symbols and luxuries. This is an intentional trap propagated by advertising agencies and propelled by idioms like “keeping up with the Joneses,” which constantly bombard us with the notion that we need material possessions to be happy–all so we’ll be good little consumers.
This is a lesson we need to teach our CEOs and our greedy politicians. It is imperative to our planet’s survival that such members of our society live instead in the kind of gratitude that keeps them from feeling a need to continually hoard . . . because we simply don’t need much to live happily. Anyone who’s lived out of a backpack while travelling knows this, as well as anyone who’s lived in poverty. The sooner we realize this, the quicker we can shift away from this top-heavy, 1% society that allows for a caste-system that creates abundance at the cost of other’s suffering.
So if you are warm, fed, and hydrated, lift your head and realize the fortune of your position. Remove that fearful paralysis that keeps you comparing yourself to others, and instead empower yourself with the realization of the wondrous position in life you’ve gotten for yourself. Put aside the mental fear that makes you think you need to hoard power and money while allowing yourself to succumb to the demands of other’s perceptions. You’re an animal who has enabled themselves to see tomorrow on this paradise of a planet, and that means you have another day to make your life anything you want.
This post originally appeared on Curious Apes.