I reckon two things today (I’m in a reckoning kinda mood): I reckon Louis C.K. is the finest stand-up comedian alive. And I reckon that we (Western society) have got to be the most sublimely fortunate people in history, and yet at the same time we’re also spoilt, blasé and inexplicably miserable (or, as Louis C.K. would put it, everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy).
I’ve got a wonderful video of Louis C.K. being interviewed on the TV show Conan to show you to illustrate both of my reckonings above, but first I want to ask you a question: How many plastic bottles did you throw away (or put in the recycling) today? You know, those P.E.T. bottles that soft-drinks and bottled water come in. How many? I threw away one today (after I finished my lunch), and there are another three in my recycling box in my kitchen right now.
What have plastic bottles got to go with our collective unhappiness?
I have a little fantasy: Instead of throwing away these useless pieces of plastic (paying someone to take them away from me, in fact), I would like to take just one of them back in time, say about 700 years, back to feudal times in Europe. I’d like to pay a visit to the most powerful king I can find, kneel before him and then produce my plastic bottle with a flourish.
“Behold, the most marvelous item in God’s creation,” I would say, holding my bottle up to the light, and then I’d remove the cap and take a jaunty swig of water. Replacing the cap, I’d accidentally-on-purpose drop the bottle on the stone floor of the court. When it didn’t shatter into a million pieces, I might sneak a look at the astonished face of the king.
“Fancy a game of football?” I would say and then punt the bottle the length of the hall. After I retrieved it, I would take another nonchalant swig and then offer it to the king for a closer inspection.
The king, of course, would be simply astounded. “What an amazing item!” he would exclaim, fondling it in his grubby little medieval hands. “It’s unbreakable, resealable, airtight, watertight, and even transparent, yet it’s light and flexible! Surely such a thing is impossible! How do you come own such a marvel, young squire?”
“Where I come from, Sire,” I would reply, “these things often come free with a serving of water. People throw them away when they’ve drunk their fill. Back home, these are so common and worthless that if you gave one to a beggar in the street, he’d throw it back at you in disgust.”
And then, in my fantasy, the king would offer me some outlandish fortune in gold so that I might be parted with my precious bottle, which would then go on to become one of his most prized possessions.
In the fantasy above, feel free to replace “plastic bottle” with “box of matches”, “cotton T-shirt”, “digital watch”, “ball-point pen”, “disposable razor”, “headache tablet”, or come up with your own commonplace but magical item…
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m still gobsmacked at how much convenience, technology and comfort we take for granted in our lives. Louis C.K. puts it beautifully…
As he puts it, “Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going OH MY GOD!! WOW!!!!”
I totally agree, and I can think of a few more things that people should be constantly shouting OH MY GOD!! WOW!!!! about. For example, at the age of 45 I’m still amazed that when I flip a light switch, a light comes on! Instantly, a bright light fills the whole room! It makes no noise, doesn’t set fire to the house, and costs a couple of cents per hour. I mean seriously: WOW! That’s some seriously impressive technology. If I brought one of those folk back in my time machine from medieval times, sat them in my living room at night, and then turned on the room’s light switch, I’d not only give them a heart attack, but I’d be forever worshipped as a god (or burnt at the stake for being a witch).
What else deserves a huge WOW every day? How about:
- Turning on a tap. Instant, pure, plentiful and cheap drinking water inside your house! Surely this is a miracle?
- Turning the ignition key on a car, and having an explosive combustion engine burst into life a few feet in front of you. Not to mention sliding the car into gear and casually driving off down the road…
- Getting something cold out of a refrigerator. Wow!. No, seriously – WOW! Unbelievable, huh? Come on, stop being so blasé – you could at least pretend to be impressed, just to humour me.
- Searching for something in Google and getting 10,701,445 results in 0.02 seconds. I still don’t know how they do that, and I’m a computer programmer and database expert…
This list goes on. I’d be interested to hear some examples that you guys come up with yourselves in the comments below.
Louis CK’s little critique on our spoilt attitudes has had a profound upon me. I see the truth in his words – all around me, every day. As a direct result of watching that video clip, I’ve noticed that my default position on most experiences I have in my life these days is changing to one of gratitude, even when those experiences are difficult and challenging. Instead of complaining about all the trivial shit that isn’t working in my life, everything from my mobile phone coverage to my relationship issues, I remind myself of all the things in my life that are working, and notice how amazing it all is and how lucky I am.
Anyone else feeling fortunate today?