Monday, August 04, 2008

There But For Fortune....

I was watching the local news this morning and they said something that triggered a few thoughts to put out for consideration.

"A glimpse into the life of the unfortunate", some blond-haired whisp of a woman in a pink suit and perfectly sculpted nails said - probably not having a notion in in the world what she was talking about.

I turned it off.

I balk at the word "unfortunate" being used mindlessly. What is that exactly? What is "unfortunate"?

Of course the newscaster was referring to material things. The people who were to be profiled are those who don't have much money. I'm sure when the report comes on that they will choose people who look downtrodden and sad.

Is fortune some external thing that comes along and wops us upside the head? Is misfortune just triumph of random chance? Is "fortune" just good karma? Does it mean God likes the "fortunate" better?

There are events that are unfortunate in all of our lives. You know.. like... let's say... um... colitis. It doesn't feel good. I'm uncomfortable. But that's an event - not a testament to the condition of my life. It doesn't negate life. It hardly warrants the label "unfortunate". Sometimes things just suck. And then they change.

Of course this is a minor example but I'm trying to make a point.

I've grown weary of smallness. I've grown weary of trifling people who think inconvenience is misfortune because, after all, our lives should always be seamless, right?

"Unfortunate" (for lack of a better word) should apply to things like the fact that many people in the world don't have clean drinking water - or that children in Cambodia get sold to pimps because their families can't afford to raise them. "Unfortunate" is Hurricane Katrina. You get my point.

It's an interesting thing, this aging process. My tolerance has decreased over the years when it comes to petty complaining. Someone complaining because they can't afford an iPod is small and petty. Profiling such things on television to further convince people that not being able to afford an iPod is a valid reason to complain and is, in fact, pitiable is deliberate.

Maybe I'm just turning into a cranky old woman - but it really did grate on my nerves this morning. Perspective. It's all about perspective. And there's enough unhappiness in the world without us creating it for ourselves.

What are your thoughts on this?



heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think that "unfortunate" can cover a wide gamut of circumstances, but as long as one has a safe place to live and food to eat, ones complaints are not at the top of the list.

However, being born into a family, no matter how prosperous, that does not love its children is grossly unfortunate. Like the child in your last post. Not being able to afford the latest trendy gadgets is not particularly unfortunate, (although obsessing about their importance is.)

While to some degree we make our own fortune, I think that much good fortune is, in your words, triumph of random choice. And it would be refreshing if the concept of misfortune were reserved for the truly big disasters and not applied to life's broken fingernails.

Defiantmuse said...

hm. maybe I'm just a cranky young woman b/c I have similar reactions to things. I notice my tolerance levels have been very low lately and I worry about what I'll be like in 20 years. It's difficult not to steep in the frustration with small-minded people. But then again, maybe that's very small-minded of me.

Amy Y said...

Ah, the media. I think they are partially responsible for a lot of our common thinking about how fortunate or unfortunate we are in this country.
It is most certainly not unfortunate to not be able to buy the latest iPod... unfortunate is having to chose between medicine and groceries. To have to decide what bench you will sleep on tonight. To have a bloated and distended tummy because it's empty. To watch your child suffer an unthinkable illness.

flutter said...

This is a lot of conjecture for not having listened to the story. I would also be careful to assume that "some little blonde whisp of a woman" wouldn't know what she was talking about, simply because she is small and blonde.

I think the road to an understanding of people, fortunate, unfortunate and all of the subtle sparkles inbetween is to realize that we will never fully know or understand the struggles or experiences of another person. Whether they are cute and blonde, or large and bald.

It all starts with the acceptance that people are people, regardless of the packaging.

Mary said...

Well then I'm getting cranky, too. Unfortunate is lives lost to a natural disaster. Unfortunate are children living in a dangerous and sad environment.

Get ya.

we_be_toys said...

I hear you sister! I guess I'm a cranky old lady too, because it does seem like folks are on a never ending spiral outward of Want Want Want, with no real or deeper satisfaction to be found at the end, only a garage or closet full of stuff.
It makes me cranky too, when the media decides to focus for a nano-second on the facade of povertym but never on it's underlying causes and issues. They don't care - it's about ratings for them, not raising our awareness or promoting selflessness in helping our fellow man.
I do think we as Americans are going to see some serious downsizing in the years to come. These crazy mega mansions that the average family of four thinks they need to have, regardless of whether they can afford it, are all foreclosing right up - are they "unfortunate" or are they paying the price for their senseless greed?
Things that make you hmmmm!
Thanks Chani!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I'm so with you on this, Chani. I speak with someone every day who finds something incredibly trivial to complain about. These often end up as long stories and the things she feels are unfortunate I see as blips.

Death, horrid disease, violence, real hunger or thirst, no love in life - ever - the people who experience these things are unfortunate.

Sensitiva McFeelingsly said...

I'm with you 100% on this. As a society, we've grown to be extremely petty and it is reinforced constantly. It's gotten so bad, that I truly believe those who do the reinforcing are not fully aware they are doing so. It's just sad.

As my husband says, "Bring on the next eschaton!"

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

While I do agree that the media tends to simultaneously sensationalize and over simplify an issue, they do have their place in bringing a certain amount of awareness to the genearl public. The trick is to be able to think for oneself and draw your own conclusions.

But I agree that when bad things happen, whether outside of your control or not, how one chooses to deal with it should speak more about us than the misfortune itself.

Catherine said...

When I was living in India, I was blown away by both the extreme poverty I saw, and the wealth I never knew could exist so lavishly. But the wealth I saw was not material or monetary - it was something else, within the soul, within community - I'm guessing its that same thing that you found in Thailand. I was humbled and overjoyed to have discovered it.

When I came home though, friends and family looked at pictures and said "oh, so much poverty!" and felt pity for those who had not, and humbled and grateful for all they themselves had. Which stunned me. Because when I looked at those same pictures I saw the richness I had found there; and when I was adjusting back to America it was the poverty of our spirits that startled me.

jen said...

i hear you, sister. we are so comfortable, really - we have no idea about daily suffering and when issues that are easily resolveable or are not life threatening get blown up, perspective is greatly needed.

Anonymous said...

Fortunate is a funny word - I can think of people who live in ostensibly fortunate circumstances, who actually have lives of great misery due to things like abuse. And the obverse, where people have found great happiness in very spartan circumstances. Of course, I don't know what the particular story was about, so it's hard to know how accurate the term was as it was being used. (But the expression "there but for the grace of God" really yanks my chain!)

slouching mom said...

very few of us can call ourselves unfortunate in the strict sense of the word.

Sorrow said...

perspective is something you use or you lose.
It is not something that some one else can give you..
I think we all become less tolerant of meaninglessness, the older we get..
age provides a clearer perspective to what we value.
I threw out my TV years and years ago..still do not miss it.

Olivia said...


I think the media just tries to train us how to think. That's the bottom line. I fully agree with you about what is and what isn't unfortunate.

I don't like the attitude that says that no one should have anything less than wonderful happen to them, as though we are promised (by whom?) a happy, problem-free, illness-free, disaster-free, suffering-free, pain-free---etc.---life. Why?

People ask "Why me?" and I wonder "Why NOT me?" What gives anyone exemption from so-called "bad things"?

Maybe I'm a cranky old woman too :) I'll gladly join the group of your blog readers who qualify!

I agree so much with what Catherine said about poverty of spirit here in America compared to India. Everyone assumes poverty of course refers to money, because that is what our culture emphasizes as important.

Always a great discussion, Chani, always beautiful comments. I have to read and think and read some more and let them sink in.

Blessings and love,


womaninawindow said...

Oh, Chani. I love this. Yes, the unfortunate. It's like when you wrote your piece about being "poor". You are one of the least poor people I know. I'm "poor" too. And yet I'm not. What IS unfortunate is that people allowed themselves to fooled by this huge construct of consumerism and the "ideal" that comes with it. Unfortunate, for sure.