Friday, August 2, 2013

First World Problems


Parshat Re’eh
26 Menachem Av, 5773
August 8th, 2013

Like a lot of guys I know, I occasionally put myself into mildly dangerous situations on purpose: surfing, diving,  martial arts, and, on one memorably terrifying occasion, hangliding. I seek this kind of stuff out,  and don’t feel quite satisfied without the presence of a small chance of grievous bodily injury. The women in my life greet these moments with heavy eye rolling.

Most people assume that these kinds of activities are just a way to prove I’m a tough guy. I am not. I am a cityfied, weekend warrior. But I have contempt for the decadence that my life of unbelievable privilege brings. And in those moments when a wave pushes me under, I think a lot less about whether or not that merlot goes well with the lamb, and a lot more about when I’ll have the chance to breathe next. It’s the simplicity I want. I lack simplicity in my life.

Rashi, the most important commentator on the Torah, gets this. He says about this week’s parsha’s discussion of whether we should be eating meat at all, “The Torah is teaching the way of things – that a person doesn’t really desire to eat meat until he gets prosperity and wealth.”  First comes wealth, then foodies try to put bacon into donuts.* Privilege brings glut, and the surest path to discomfort is to stuff ourselves with too much good stuff.

 As we attempt solve our First World problems of overabundance, I worry that we’re too attached to First World solutions. I love SCUBA diving; renting the gear costs $300 a shot. I love to surf one of my $600 boards. That simple, healthy food costs $40 an entree.

I don’t think that our opulence will ever lead us to the simplicity we seek.

*Please stop doing that.

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