Football Schedules and the Enormity of the World’s Grief
The NFL season is underway, however one may feel about the wisdom of that decision. It’s taking place in a form no one expected (football at a distance, sparse crowds, safety measures in place) and reminds me of a notion I started putting into words a couple of years ago.
Every once in a while on this journey I have gotten a surprise visit from the inner critic who knocks on the door and says hey, to even write about this means you have privilege. The privilege of an education and of not worrying about where your next meal is coming from or if your health will completely fail at any moment and you’ll end up homeless.
You have a car that works and keys to your own house and great people who love you and a net to stop your fall and hot showers and no food insecurity and disability payments if you need surgery. You have time to be in your leisurely Inquiry Into A Gratitude-Inspired Life, as you like to call this blog.
You have been able to work in your “essential” grocery store throughout this pandemic (even with the inconvenience of masks and protocols), you and every one close to you has stayed healthy and it’s even been damn near tranquil at times with less noise and fewer cars on the road.
Someone put the practice of writing from a place of privilege even more strongly–“It’s the privilege of having the peace of mind to care about topics that don’t put food on people’s tables, or pay the rent, or ensure that their children aren’t malnourished or obese, or prevent the poisoning of citizens in their water supply, or stop corporations from destroying the land, or end the molestation of young people, or shield refugees fleeing war zones, or bring down the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts. Nothing that helps the billions of people threatened by homelessness, disease, violence and the indignity of poverty.”
In other words, your first-world, white guy gratitude isn’t worth that much in the whole scheme of things. It’s not really tested. You’re not truly up against it. I walk into those weeds every so often and it reminds me of how sportswriters and pundits can criticize an NFL team’s success by noting that their schedule was “easy” or “soft.”
However true or false that is, the only possible reply is “We don’t make the schedule, we just play the games.” At the end of a season, every team’s wins or losses have the same value as any other’s.
I work every day to give heartfelt thanks for the manifold blessings in my life. At the same time, I give thanks as a sixty seven year old white guy in America and I’m well aware of that. It’s one of the real contradictions in establishing a gratitude practice. I want to be in a state of thankfulness for my almost unbelievably abundant life and millions of people do not have access to the same experiences I do.
But I didn’t make the schedule. I cannot honestly come from any other place than this one.
When I hear my own critic diminishing the writing I do, scoffing at my “soft schedule,” it’s good to remember this. A translation of one Talmudic text says– “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Whatever your schedule, wherever you are.