Right Here Problems

Right here problems.

They’re right here. Right now. And most of the time, the solutions to those problems are here and now, too.

But if you’re like me, you like to go looking for other problems. For big problems – for glorious and existential problems. For world-scale problems.

If we only worried about our own problems in the here and now, our lives wouldn’t be all that complicated. Eat when I’m hungry. Drink when I’m thirsty. Take medicine when I’m sick. Help others with the same.

But our minds like to solve all problems, not just problems in the here and now. So we worry about political happenings thousands of miles away. We worry about mistakes we made 20 years ago. We worry about problems we might have 20 years from today.

That’s a lot of problems. We churn and gnash and agonize over problems that aren’t here and now. We worry that we’ll never be able to solve all those problems. And we’re right. So we don’t have peace of mind.

I need to be better about understanding that there are enough problems right here and now. I don’t need to go looking for other problems.

But I do anyway.

We might not be able to the fix the world’s worst political problems thousands of miles away. But every day, we choose how we treat people around us. We can control how we talk to our spouse and how patient we are with the cashier at the store and how we react to the people driving around us in traffic.

I use my inability to change the worst behavior of others far away as an excuse for my own worst behavior right here and now. But my road rage is no different than bombings and killings in Aleppo; my temper at its worst is no different from those angry and vengeful spectators at a nativist political rally.

The only difference is what I can control.

It’s much easier to focus our attention on problems that are other people’s fault. They’re everywhere. It’s not hard to find them on tv or online. Other people’s problems are available on demand.

But the more we focus on far-away-people’s problems, the less attention and energy we dedicate to our own and those around us. And the less attention we give our immediate surroundings, the more we tend to neglect the needs of those around us. We self-righteously proclaim our anger at injustices in remote corners of the world without bothering to perform simple kindnesses for those we see every day.

What makes us think we can solve big problems far away if we cannot resolve simple problems right here?

Right here problems are enough. I have the rest of my life to spend working on them. And that’s exactly how much time I need.