Nihilism Is No Place To Live

“Always look on the bright side of life.” ~Monty Python

The news is bad. The United States continues to be deeply ideologically divided, but it doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you are on because the news from any angle these days is depressing. The Delta variant is exploding in unvaccinated communities, and now the CDC is saying that it is as contagious as chicken pox and even vaccinated individuals are capable of passing it along to others. The fires in the west are consuming towns, and people on the east coast are seeing and breathing their toxic smoke. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at dangerous and historic lows as most of the western United States is experiencing an extreme drought. I could go on and on describing the news I see in my feed each day, but I am trying to keep myself off antidepressants and away from the brink of alcoholism, and you probably are trying to shake off all the bad news anyway.

This morning I was discussing these things with my 18 year old son. I told him that right now the United States is a shitshow and I need to stop reading the news altogether and crawl into a mental cave to save what little sanity I have left. He surprised me by responding this way.

I prefer not to think of the US as a shitshow I prefer to think of it as a fixer upper. Shitshow implies it is a pointless endeavor to try to fix anything. Yeah. Things are hard. But there are things that can be done to fix it. It won’t be easy, but we can’t give up. If we decide things are hopeless, we become nihilists, and that is no way to live.

Man, that kid is something else. But he’s right. As part of Gen Z, these problems are his future inheritance. What kind of parent am I if I am living in a place of doom and gloom and talking to him about them without any sort of optimism or vision? Messaging matters. We adults need to revise our talking points because we are telling our children, “Sorry about the huge mess. Good luck with that.” That’s just not right at all.

I have the utmost faith in Gen Z. My sons and the young people they are friends with are engaged, informed, tolerant, realistic, and passionate. They know they have a lot facing them, but they have a sense they will be able to succeed where others have failed. What’s more is that they know they have no choice. They are going to have to be creative, to step up and solve problems because their future depends on it. I sense this group is up to the task. They have the tools. They just need for us old folks to get out of their way and let them lead.

As for my part, I am going to work on changing my focus. Yeah. The news is bad. But the news was bad during the plague too, and yet we humans got through it. We are adaptable. We dream, we invent, we persevere. Like the Energizer Bunny, we keep going. We need to open our minds to the possibilities and stop being so damn fatalistic. And if we adults can’t step up and do that, maybe we should shut up so we don’t poison the minds of those whose vision could change everything.

Today’s First World Problem…Solved

Steve enjoying the solution to our first world problem.

It’s been hot. Ridiculously hot. Today’s mountain bike ride with hubby, undertaken at 10:30 a.m., was conducted in 91 degree heat. By 2 p.m. when we were driving to REI our car registered a balmy 102. Three days ago, we saw 104 degrees, just one degree shy of the highest ever recorded temperature in Denver. To make matters worse, the entire state is a tinderbox. Firefighters are currently battling thirteen wildfires, which is five more than they were battling this morning. The smoke hangs heavy in the air reminding us that not only is it hot but it’s flaming hot. I’m starting to wonder when Satan will drop in for a visit because Hell is feeling a little chilly by comparison.

Tonight we’d planned to go to a neighborhood concert in the park, but as 5 p.m. rolled around we realized there was no way we were sitting outside for two straight hours in the hot, hot heat. Instead, we came home and collapsed in the air-conditioned comfort of our house. Then, the seemingly impossible happened. There was cloud cover and a slight breeze. We ventured out into the backyard to sit on our lovely flagstone patio, a patio that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to enjoy yet this summer. As we sat at our wrought iron table in the shade of our Japanese maple tree, we were still mostly baking. While the sun had abated, the heat remained far too noticeably.

“How do people who live near the equator stand it?” I whined. “It’s summer. I’m supposed to be able to enjoy the nice weather. I’m supposed to be able to enjoy the yard we worked on during the spring. It’s too hot to sit out here. Next year I’m not going to bother gardening.”

“This sounds like a first world problem,” Steve replied, hoping to shut me up.

“Well…I need a solution to my first world problem. The folks in the Congo are used to this. I am not.”

“You can always go back into your air conditioned house,” he suggested. It was a delicately veiled attempt to get rid of me, though, and I was not going that easily.

“Wait a second. Wait just one second,” I perked up. “Didn’t your parents buy us that crazy misting fan years ago? Where is that thing?”

“It’s in the basement, I think,” he replied with interest.  “I’ll go look for it.”

A few minutes later Steve emerged with this enormous fan that his parents had bought us years ago. I balked when it had arrived, wondering when we would use such a thing and where we would store it when we weren’t using it. In fact, we’d only used it once, about four summers ago. The past several summers have been far too cool and wet to warrant its presence. Steve plugged it in, hooked it up to the hose, and voila! We were enjoying the wasteful luxury folks in Vegas and Phoenix know so well…a misted patio.

The misted patio, of course, needed happy hour drinks. We poured ourselves a couple cocktails, settled back into our chairs, and reveled in the comfort provided by our own personal patio saver. We spent a couple minutes discussing how fortunate we are to have first world problems and not third world problems. Our eleven year old, who had joined us briefly, inquired about the difference.

“Well, a first world problem is not being able to find the cord to charge your iPod. A third world problem is having the well in the town run dry,” I told him. “What happens if your well runs dry?”

“You die of thirst,” Joe answered.

“Right,” I said. “And what happens if you lose your iPod charger?” I asked him.

“You buy a new one,” he replied.

“Yep. You see the difference between the things we deal with and the things other people in this world struggle with?”

“Uh huh,” he said, thoughtfully, before departing for the frigid basement.

As we sat reflecting on how blessed we are to have only first world problems to deal with, I realized that the metal chair I was resting my flip-flopped feet on was a bit hard on my heels.

“I need a pillow for under my feet,” I told Steve, hoping he would take the hint.

“Looks like you have a new first world problem,” was his answer.

“Yes,” I said. “I need a new servant apparently. The old one is becoming more and more unreliable.”