by Father Mark Goldasich
This comedian has said on numerous occasions that he hates Kansas City. That’s one strike against him. Also, his humor is very adult, and often scatological and brutal. Those are strikes two and three.
But before counting Louis CK out, I recently came across another side of him via a YouTube video from several years ago. In an appearance on the Conan O’Brien talk show, he made this thought-provoking statement, “Everything is amazing right now, and nobody is happy.”
Louis CK described growing up using a rotary phone “that you had to stand right up against.” Now, he noted, we live in an amazing world and we’re all spoiled. He used the example of a smartphone. When it doesn’t respond immediately to what we want it to do, we roll our eyes and sigh. His response: “Give it a second! [The signal] is going to space! Can you give it a second to get back from space?!?”
There’s no better place to witness this sense of entitlement, he added, than flying on an airplane. People often complain about air travel being “the worst,” lamenting numerous delays or sitting on the runway. All of this is astounding to the comedian because what happens next is often taken for granted: “Did you fly through the air — incredibly — like a bird?!? Did you partake of the miracle of human flight?!?”
Louis CK said that everyone on a plane should be clutching their armrests and constantly shouting, “WOW!” He concluded with: “It’s amazing! You’re sitting in a chair . . . in the sky!”
He is so on point about how much we take for granted, even when it’s right in front of us. Here’s a favorite story of mine that deals with this phenomenon:
There was once an old woman who crossed the Brazilian frontier every week on a motor scooter with a sack of sand behind her. Eventually, the customs officer at the border became suspicious.
He stopped her one day and asked, “What have you got in that sack?”
“Only sand, sir,” replied the woman. Skeptical, the officer emptied the sack and, sure enough, it contained nothing but sand.
He watched this behavior for months and finally could take it no longer. “Look,” he said, “I’m retiring next week. Quite honestly, you’ve been driving me crazy. Now, I won’t arrest you or say anything to anybody else, but tell me: Are you smuggling or not?”
“Yes,” the woman replied sheepishly.
“But I’ve diligently checked that sand bag every time! What are you smuggling?” he asked.
With a wide smile, the woman pointed beneath her and said, “Motor scooters!” (Adapted from Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)
Yes, so many times we fail to really see what’s right in front of us. From the miracle of human flight to the astounding things our smartphones do, our sense of entitlement stifles our sense of wonder. We fail to live, as a delightful sports headline read in The Kansas City Star, “in the precious present.” We could all use a healthy change of perspective.
For example, crying or rambunctious kids at Mass sometimes bother people. I ask them to think about all of the parents sitting at the bedsides of kids in Children’s Mercy Hospital or other parents who are grieving the death of a child or who are unable to have children, who would absolutely welcome the “activeness” of a healthy kid. When viewed from this perspective, those “vocal” kids don’t seem so bad after all.
Or we complain about having to wait in line at the grocery store. We’re blind to the fact that we have the ability to get to the store by ourselves, choose from an extensive variety of foods and have the money to purchase those groceries.
But how can we see something amazing in the less pleasant experiences of our lives, like going to the dentist? For starters, we can be grateful that we even have access to a dentist, let alone get a choice among them. And we can be thankful for all of the advances in dentistry that make the experience a relatively painless one for the most part.
So, if you find yourself less than happy lately, maybe it’s high time to rediscover the power of being amazed and living in the precious present. Summer and its delights are a perfect place to start.
And the next time you find yourself on a plane, grab that armrest and at least say “WOW” in your mind . . . and don’t forget to thank that amazing God who has made it all possible.