Friday, September 9, 2011

My Profound Ignorance

From time to time here at H&R, I have touched on something that fascinates me: that invisible bubble composed of circumstances, ideologies, experiences, prejudices, ignorance, suppositions and logical/semi-logical conclusions that surrounds us all and isolates our own lives into a fundamentally different experience from everyone else's. None of us ever has the same human experience, though we can see certain things in common. To me, that's astounding. No one operates with the exact internal program that I do -- or that you do. That, quite easily, can result in my being an ass in someone else's eyes and a genius in my own, or even the other way around.

Today, I gained an understanding that turned my guts to stone. Maybe, for a second, my own invisible bubble brushed up against people who suffer in a way I could never imagine.

The set up is this: A few weeks ago, my family and I went off to Florida. During our time away, hurricane Irene swept up the east coast of the U.S. By the time it reached New Jersey, it had become a tropical storm, but it was enough to cause flooding and power-outages. Our house lost power and the refrigerator died. We lost some food. Now it is fixed.

Because my wife just started a new job and my new school year started at the same time, we have had no time to shop for food. The cupboards are becoming bare. So we, a family of four, have not bought food for nearly a month.

This morning, I was standing at the opened fridge and then at the opened cupboard, trying to figure out, grumpily, what I was going to bring to work for lunch. I culled a cup of instant macaroni and cheese, a granola bar and a banana from the kitchen. (Well, I suppose the bananas must have been picked up at some point during that month.)

We have nothing to eat, I thought.

We have nothing to eat, yet I scraped up a substantial meal from my "empty" cupboard. We're not out of food after nearly a month -- we're just down to the less desirable stuff. Poor us.

We who live in lands of plenty have no idea what kind of suffering is borne by the unfortunates in our world with completely empty bellies. We have no idea what it is like to have nothing at all to eat and nothing to drink.

The suffering the desperately poor endure lies beyond my comprehension and that fact leads me, at least on this issue and for the day, to have a pretty low opinion of my own ability to understand my fellow humans.

Fat, grumpy and ignorant is not way to go through life. Yet, so many of us make a pretty good attempt at it.

God bless the multitudes who are so much stronger than I will ever be and, yet, will die so much sooner.

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