Friday, February 27, 2009

Waking thoughts

There are times when a book or characters or something I'm writing wakes me in the middle of the night and refuses to let me get back to sleep again. This morning was one of those times, only this time it was a philosophical question that troubled my sleep and set my brain in edge.

Do we choose to be miserable?

I think we do. That doesn't mean I think we should all be Pollyannas and forget that sometimes life is hard, but that we chose to be miserable when there are other options.

Yes, pain hurts and it colors everything in black and bloody red until the only thoughts that get through the morass of pain is getting hold of drugs to make it better. There are other options. You can choose biofeedback or focusing on something else to get through the pain or just pop a few pills. But it is a choice whether or not to let the pain rule your life.

Yes, the world is full of starving and oppressed and tyrannized people, and some of them live in the same town and state and country. Why is it people are more willing to help someone in another country than in their own back yard? Seeing the suffering is more difficult than reading it in a paper and knowing it is happening somewhere else in the world, but in the end, what can we do about it? Governments choose to throw money at it and open the doors to immigrants so they can come here and suffer without thinking how the money could have been used to educate people so they can help themselves. But we choose to allow whatever they do and those people choose to continue suffering. They could rise up and stop the people causing the suffering. They could choose to beg, borrow or steal food and seed and grow their own food. They could choose to leave. They choose.

It seems a harsh way of looking at things, but how is it any different than the way things were done when we didn't have immediate access to videos and films and pictures of the conditions in other countries? How is it any different than walking past a homeless mother and children on the street and choosing not to see them? Why does the idea of a foreigner suffering makes us feel more guilty or more compassionate than the people who share our city streets, highways and byways?

It's a choice. Everything is about choice.

I choose to help those in my path, but I am not going to work hard to spend it all on people in another country or even people in my own town and give everything I've worked for away. I earned it. I've had my trials and tribulations, but I always found a way to survive and to get what I needed. I'm willing to give anyone a hand up, but I'm not willing to give a hand out. If I work for what I have and then give everything away, what have I done but perpetuate the cycle? I haven't helped anyone, least of all myself. I haven't done anyone a service and I have beggared myself in the process. Only an idiot would give away everything they worked for to someone who can work and earn their own way.

I used to carry business cards for a day labor service. Every time someone came up to me and asked for money for coffee or food I gave them a card and told them they could earn enough for food and a place to stay. Most people tore up the cards and cursed me. Some of them waited until I drove or walked away to do so.

Everyone has options, some good and some bad, but there is no degradation unless a person chooses to feel degraded. There is no degradation in working for a temp or day labor service, and there is the satisfaction of knowing, at least when working for day labor, that you will be paid at the end of the day. It's not as lucrative as begging on the streets and expecting the world to take care of you, but it is honest. It is a choice.

A long time ago, someone told me that I chose to be unhappy or sad or angry. I told him he didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't choose to hurt myself or treat myself like dirt. But I did. Anyone can hurt me -- if I let them. Anyone can treat me like dirt -- but that doesn't make me dirt. Anyone can steal from me, but that doesn't make me poor. Anyone can lie to me, but I don't have to believe them. I have a choice. I choose to make the best of my situation and be happy that I can go on one more minute, one more hour, one more day, one more week, one more breath.

I choose.

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