That the wise man had a point…

“Be careful what you wish for” said the wise man. An ominous warning we’ve all heard, but we rarely heed. Human nature drives us all to believe (or at the very least wonder) if the grass is greener on the other side. We yearn for a new boss, pray for warmer weather, and long for a fancier car. We tell ourselves that we would gladly give anything to swap places in society with the guy at work who seemingly has everything: the ideal job, good looks, perfect family, and impeccable health. We justify always wanting something different with the rationalization that things will be better, and we will no longer feel that desire for more when we finally behold for ourselves that for which we so badly wish. However what I noticed this week is reality tends to be far more complex than the perfect picture we idolize in our minds.

René Descartes was a 16th century French mathematician and philosopher who hypothesized about the human consciousness and its relationship to both our natural space and the metaphysical world. Descartes responded to the notion of that which is impossible to observe through our physical senses (God, for example) by arguing that the human mind, while incredibly adept at abstract thought, is fundamentally limited by one very distinct barrier: conception. Put another way we simply cannot perceive that which we cannot first conceive. If we can’t fathom it, we can’t understand it. A more often used interpretation of this which can be better applied to everyday life: {We know what we know. And we know what we don’t know. But we don’t know what we don’t know.} So we know the level of satisfaction (or lack thereof) that we derive from our own lives. And we know that we don’t know the greater level of satisfaction that we assume our lucky-in-life coworker derives from her life. But we don’t know the intricate details behind the facade which tell the real story underlining that which we don’t know, and in fact we don’t even know what’s not to know about all that exists surrounding each individual life situation. Maybe that new boss adds ten-times the workload to your plate. Perhaps the summer weather brings an ungodly and unbearable heat wave costing you a fortune in electric bills. And what if that new car turns out to be a lemon costing you your time, your money, and your sanity? Most important, just maybe that co-worker’s seemingly perfect life is headed down a dark path behind the scenes to divorce and depression. So next time you find yourself making a deal with the Devil to trade places in life with that lady at the party who everyone wants to be, just pause for a moment and glance all around. If you look hard enough you’ll see the single mother at the other end of the room in failing health and struggling to make ends meet staring in your direction, telling her friend that she would do anything in the world to be in your shoes instead of her own.


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