Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons from Indonesia, pt. 2 - Gratitude

Happy Wednesday everyone! It's Monkey yet again with another post about some of the things we learned from Indonesia.

We thought it was a bit of perfect timing, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving (or Unthanksgiving, or National Day of Mourning, depending on which coast you live on and what your beliefs are about the settler's immigration to this continent). Regardless of whether you're frustrated or just happy to be eating tofurkey, I think it should most definitely be a time of reflection.

While it shouldn't have taken a trip to Indonesia for me to really grasp the sense of extreme poverty that many citizens of the world face (after all, I should just check out Detroit, or New Orleans, or even my hometown of Stockton, the most miserable city in the country), seeing that sort of poverty first-hand really tore me up.

While I don't want to take away from the Occupy Wall Street Movement (where I proudly stand as part of the 99%), just as we are fighting for our own well-being domestically, we also just need to be aware that we're most likely part of the 1% globally, just by living in the United States.

While I currently make enough money to register well under the poverty line, I'm also typing this right now on a mac, and I'm someplace warm, drinking some tap water. I'm not living in a cobbled together home made out of bricks, plaster, and some sheet metal for a roof. When it rains, it doesn't splatter into my home that doesn't have a front door. I don't have to buy bottled water everyday because tap water makes you sick (assuming I'd even be able to afford bottled water). I can be assured that my city inspects restaurants to ensure clean practices.

There isn't an actual war (with suicide bombings, ak-47's and the like) going on in my backyard like people in the Middle East and parts of Asia have to deal with. I don't have to worry that Eve is going to be kidnapped and sold into slavery (at best) like the women of Juarez, Mexico have to worry about.

While I don't want to belabor the tragedies and trials and horrors that our world has seen and continues to see, we do need to recognize these things. As Cal sociology professor Dan Brook has said about the massacre of the Native Americans by the Pilgrims and their successors: "We do not have to feel guilty, but we do need to feel something. At the very least, we need to reflect on how and what we feel."

If anything, I think that we should all feel extremely grateful to have what we do have. If you're reading this, chances are you're trying to pursue some sort of creative endeavor, and that is something to be extremely grateful for. Often times we (or at least I) get bogged down in how tough the struggle can be sometimes. Trying to find the energy and motivation, trying to find ways to survive as an artist, new clients, dealing with problem clients, trying to explain to your family what you do, dealing with your can be rough. However, what I try to focus on is the fact that by choosing to follow your dream, by choosing to work your butt off until you're exhausted for what YOU want to do (not what society tells us we should be doing), we're part of an even luckier .01% that does what WE want to do.

So however you want to celebrate this upcoming Thursday, whether it's with food and family or with friends or with your pencils and paints in your studio, or with strangers in an #occupy protest or whatever, know that you do have something to be grateful for. So as long as you're still breathing and doing what you need to do, be thankful for what you have, and make the most of this crazy little thing called life.