It’s always a good time to appreciate good things

February 23, 2010 | By | 7 Replies More

I had to work late tonight, and as I got into my car I was a bit frustrated that I was not able to get home earlier, so I could spend more time with my daughters. Poor me.

As I put the key in the ignition, however, it occurred to me that I was fortunate that when I turned a little key in the ignition, my cars engine fired up. I was lucky to be able to drive quickly home in a car that actually worked on a cold winter night.  Not only does it work, it has a radio. As I drove through the streets of the city of St. Louis, I appreciated that there were well marked streets and that the people driving home around me were doing so carefully. I passed a Walgreens on the way home, and it occurred to me that I am lucky to live in a society where you can get quick relief for many medical ailments. Many people in the world have no access to aspirin when they get headaches.  I shouldn’t ever take that for granted.

When I got home and saw my beautiful children, it occurred to me that I should always consciously appreciate how lucky I am when I get home and I find that my children are safe. When I see them smile I should give thanks for that too, because there are many people who don’t have a safe place to spend time with their smiling children.  I could go on and on, of course. I live in a wealthy society where I can turn on lights with the flick of a switch, and where the interiors of our houses are usually comfortable. I live in a society where a magic Internet gives me easy access to more information from more diverse groups of people than I could have ever imagined.  I live a life of luxuries that could make a King jealous.

As I dictate this short post, I am eating a delicious bowl of soup, sitting in a comfortable chair, knowing that my children (and now my wife) are safe and healthy and sleeping soundly upstairs. I am free to walk out of my front porch and stare up at the sky. I can somehow see one big round object that is a quarter million miles away, and I can see hundreds and thousands of stars.  Because of the scientific work of many who have come before me, I know I live on a huge orb and that underneath my feet, way down past the Earth itself, there are billions more stars.

I am awestruck by the thought that several trillions of cells have somehow become highly coordinated to an extent that “I.” exist. The body is so complex that I don’t wonder why it sometimes doesn’t work–rather, I revel in the fact that it works at all. How is it that 10 billion of those cells have become self-aware? Indeed, how is it that this 3 pound brain is capable of generating endless representations of the real world inside of my own head? How is it that I am able to think about conversations I had it work while I sit home alone at home? this is all too amazing to understand.

Yes, we live in a world where many things could be better than they are, but I try to remember (though not often enough) that I am an extremely fortunate person living among extremely fortunate people, and that there should not be any whining in a place like this.  And just after I had reminded myself about how wonderfully mysterious life is, I stumbled upon this YouTube video featuring Louis C.K., who passionately summed up what I I have been feeling tonight.


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Category: American Culture, Consumerism, Meaning of Life, Quality of Life

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. The phone example Louis C.K. mentioned in the clip has special meaning to me.

    When I was a high school kid some 40+ years ago I was dabbling with the surplus technology of the day. Every week I would go to the local tech dump store to see what was "new" and almost always come home with some small treasure to feed my physics interest. My friends and I would drool at the sight of out-of-reach measuring equipment like oscilloscopes, signal generators, etc. When we got our first jobs we could actually buy some of it, but somehow a load of stuff remained out of reach, like on rare occasion a spectrum analyzer. Big cabinet, weighing a tonne and having cost several when it was new.

    Fast forward to now: I have at least four spectrum analyzers on my iPhone and the one I use most, a waterfall spectrograph, only costs $5. There's a lot more where that came from, and it looks like it's not going to stop. I feel like a kid in the proverbial candy store these days and there's a "WOW!" every day.

    But when you grow up in a candy store, aren't you destined to become spoilt?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Planeten: I am a kid in the candy store when it comes to music electronics. I was salivating over synthesizers when I was 18, playing in a band, but they were sky-high out of reach financially.

      Fast forward to today. I have a little recording studio that blows away any multi-track tape deck I could have had 35 years ago. I have a voice synthesizer that was inconceivable back then. I use a digital looper. These three items cost me about $1,500 total. 35 years ago, I'd be afraid to own this incredible technology because I would be afraid that someone would KILL me to take it from me. This is wild speculation, but I would bet that if I could go back in time and sell these things, they would go for a couple of million dollars. These are just a few examples of many, of course.

      I really did enjoy Louis C.K.'s example of flying in an airplane. He's right on target. How can anyone rant about airline food when you are being given the opportunity to rocket safely through the sky in an aluminum tube? I often take photos out the window on airplanes, and I do consciously appreciate the opportunity to sit on a chair in the sky. See, for example, here:

  2. Zoevinly says:

    I'm so glad that we live in a country where there are tons of ATMs for every bank (which helps us avoid paying fees) and banks are is open for more than three hours a day! Louis C.K.'s joke reminds me of the time I was staying in a tiny town in the south of Italy (pity me). The bank was often closed at times when it was supposed to be open, and we'd often arrive at the bank just when the teller was leaving. It got so bad that we took to calling each other if someone discovered the teller jiggling his keys in the bank's front door. "It's open! The bank is open!" we yelled. Can you imagine the little American college students racing to the bank, waving their $50 travelers' checks in order to get a handful of lira at a crummy exchange rate? That was us. Money runs our lives, I tell you. Even we the privileged ones are slaves to the banks.

  3. Michael says:

    Wow! So quickly did the focus change from things like spending time with family, opportunities for learning, etc., morph into the great toys we can buy. I think we still have a long way to go.

  4. @Michael: An excellent observation. Although I buy my toys with education in mind ;-).

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