“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
―Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I was on blackout status at the treatment facility in Las Vegas, thinking I was special and therefore deserved and expected the CAs to keep an eye on my car for me, I was forced to take a loss and didn’t find out about it until it was too late. During that time I wasn’t allowed to receive any visitors for the first 45 days – except for my sponsor – an older recovering alcoholic from Texas who walks with a cane and talks about Death during breakfast; and who was diagnosed with a wicked case of malignant spinal cord tumors some years ago. Surgical strategies were successful at removing the tumors from his spine but the operation left him with permanent disabilities that wiped out any chance of walking again. The old man literally had to shit in a pan for the first 6 months and couldn’t go to sleep without going through an entire process of crawling and “transferring” into bed. After nearly 2 years of assisted shitting solutions, he was able to move one leg just enough to smash around on a cane. He continued gaining movement until he was able to shit in peace again, and then, started showering on his own. Before anyone knew it, he was somehow driving again. Then, the tumors came back. He had to go for a second surgery and although the doctors were successful at removing the tumors from his spine again, the surgery took him back to the start.
All the way back to the pan.
I got the news about my car on a Friday and saw my sponsor the following Saturday morning. Once we got past the FFR “check-in” routine, I learned that my sponsor was coming up on the 2-year mark at which point “the ole cancer” tries to come back. He was getting ready to leave to California for his 2-year recurrence screening to see if the tumors were back. After the second surgery, the old man gained enough feeling in one leg to take a real shit and bounce around on a cane again, but if the Doctors in California were to find another recurrence, he would need a third surgery which would probably set him back to the start.
And damn, there I was walking into the visiting room after a not so major stress event with an overly materialistic mindset feeling sorry for myself over a 2007 Toyota Camry. I felt really rude to my sponsor because I was so wrapped up in my own shit that I wasn’t paying attention to him; and simultaneously humbled knowing that he was on the verge of receiving potentially paralyzing news while I was getting ready to complain to him about a piece of replaceable metal.
Humiliated enough, I never mentioned the car.
One of the books I’ve spent some time studying during the institutional downtime I’ve had is Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset. I’ve read this text several times and have taken my time trying to uncover many of the ideas in this book. Gasset can be overly elitist and even annoying at times but one of the interesting ideas put forth in this book is the ungrateful nature of what Gasset calls the “mass man,” who insists on more and more of everything without realizing that what he wants has always been a privilege of a small group of elites.
Take the relationship between mass man and the motor vehicle for example. A single car is made up of tens of thousands of parts working together to get mass man from point A to point B. Consider the engineering, printing, supplying, shipping, testing, laboring, and many faces and phases of workers and materials contributing to the complex manufacturing processes involved in the production of the motor vehicle – all the little nodes, rods, pieces, metals, plastics, electronic circuits, and specialized parts – it is breathtaking, really. But not only does mass man not appreciate all of this; he doesn’t even acknowledge it. Instead, mass man jumps in the car and drives away; and if anything, he complains about fuel efficiency and how gas prices aren’t fair to him.