Friday, July 9, 2010

Immeasurable Prosperity

What a wonderful summer it has been for me. I'm only working 40 hours a week, sometimes less, and making great money. I have enough downtime to read for hours without end, enjoy the sun's rays, sleep in and fit in long runs 4 times a week. I am definitely living the easy life.

This morning I woke up early to fit in an 8 mile run, stopped by the grocery store on my way home, walked the mile home with my arms full of bags, made a huge breakfast with coffee and juice and sprawled out over the newspaper to read of the world's woes while I rested in comfort. The only "struggle" of my day - running - was one I chose. How wild that I have been born into a life where I get to choose my struggles. One in which I opt and actively seek out degrees of hardship.

In this same morning, I also gave in to looking up round trip tickets to the nearest rough-around-the-edges country where I could escape from the modernity that allots me the former daily routine. Such contradictions. I have the economic freedom to put myself amid lives marred by unchosen, sometimes extremely wretched, struggle for as long as I see fit, get back on the vessel of modernity and return to the relative ease that the industrialized world cushions me in.

Choice. For the most part, I can choose the kind of life I want. Very few other countries in the world offer that to their inhabitants. I choose how to expend my calories, pass my hours, spend my money. As I read the book "Development as Freedom," by Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, I am more convinced that choice is at the heart of development. Choice is what I wish for the people I've met in the hills of Nicaragua, the shanty towns of Ciudad de Juarez, and the slums of Buenos Aires.

I want the little girl from Hilapo Dos whose long silk-like hair, big eyes, coffee skin and bashful smile pulled me out of myself to be able to choose between babies and books. I don't will her to have all the choices I do, for then she would only be confused and overwhelmed, but I want her to know the delight in choosing which path she shall take at life's forks. I want there to be a fork in her road. I want her to discover that not only does she love her boyfriend and native village, but she loves the way she feels after solving a difficult math problem, passing her knowledge on to a class of children, or turning her entreprenuerial ideas into a small business. I want her to feel, however fleeting the moment, that she can shape the small world around her.

When I think about choice as a measure of prosperity rather than GDP, unemployment rates, fiscal deficit or any of the other numbers we have become narrowly focused on, I realize that while times are numerically hard in our country, we are still free. We all still have a choice. Even the begging guy on the corner who has been evicted from his home has a choice. He doesn't have to stand there because there are numerous homeless shelters with a bed and a meal for him. He doesn't have to starve. The single mom with three kids and not enough money to pay the bills isn't without hope. There are non profits everywhere that exist solely to help people like her. Our government even has a system designed to help her. There are jobs that don't require complex skill sets that offer employment. Our economy, no matter how sickly, accomodates everyone.

On the other side of the spectrum, walk into the wrong zone in a war torn country, choose a religion, cross the wrong person in power, unknowingly build your hut over an oil reserve, demand rights, or sometimes just be the unlucky ethnicity at the time . . . and face certain death.

So even when life's choices become heavy, say divorcing a spouse and splitting up a family or spending life less happy than we had hoped, remember, we still have a choice. There are women in this world who would be murdered for that choice.


Amber Lea Starfire said...

Excellent, well written post that is both thought provoking and full of gratitude. (I must say that "only 40 hours per week" seems like a lot of working, to me, but then I probably do more than that-just don't realize it because I do what I love.)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and journal.

Kiki said...

Hey! I missed this post somehow before, but if there were a 'like' button, I'd press it many times. Someone once defined poverty as the lack of choice, and I have struggled with all the implications of that ever since, but I think it hits on something important nonetheless. hmmm, more to mull over. Thanks!