There's famine in Somalia and other East African nations right now. In the news there are pictures of people starving and skeletal children lying down in the dirt to die. It occurs to me that they must accept this vivid reality as easily as I accept that I am sitting in a hotel room in Spencer, Iowa. It's a standard hotel room – two beds, a refrigerator, television. It is air-conditioned and the breakfast is complimentary.
This morning a grown man could not figure out how to work the waffle iron. It kept beeping at him, and he just stared at it dumbly, helpless. A young girl, probably fourteen, finally got sick of listening to the high-pitched noise coming from the machine and opened it (the beeping signals that the waffle is fully cooked). The man seemed amazed by her ability to interpret the reason for the waffle iron's incessant alarm. In an earlier time, natural selection would have picked that guy off long before he could reach middle age, but he is fortunate enough (as we all are, sitting in this hotel chain's lobby in Northeast Iowa) to live in a society where technology has eliminated the need for thought when it comes to our daily routines.
Do those people starving in Somalia know this? Do they know that I sleep in a comfortable bed every night? Or that I eat food freshly prepared at a restaurant, often leaving much of the meal unfinished? Do they know that I complain when I have to ride on a crowded bus or when rain clouds disrupt the signal for the satellite dish at the bar (hey – I'm trying to watch this baseball game that I barely care about)? Do they know that my mother has so little to worry about that she frets about me getting overheated in my Chicago apartment when the temperature gets above 90 degrees?
I hope they don't know any of these things. These are dirty, horrible secrets that I want to take to my grave – that I, through sheer, stupid luck, was born in 1980s Middle America and have never gone a day without clean water. I worry primarily about my appearance, my intelligence, my talent, or whether someone likes me.
Last night I drank a beer in a jacuzzi, then read an article outlining the pros and cons of various fictitious superpowers.
I can think of nothing else to say, except that I won't be surprised, or really that upset, if I don't go to heaven when I die.