The First World Problem(s) of Lent
What do people give up for Lent?
Chocolate? Coffee? Alcohol?
Watching TV? Facebook? Listening to The One Direction on Spotify?
Does it seem that these things are all first-world items and activities?
One might say: yes, but it’s about the heart/attitude, the temptation or the desire and not so much the actual physical object or activity.
Now, even if that’s this case, (or perhaps even more so,) as I alluded to a couple of weeks ago, is the whole phenomenon of giving up ____ for Lent not just a first-world problem?
For this season of Lent, I have been trying to give up ‘first-world problems’ — somewhat trying to escape the phenomenon described above — to be thankful for my first-world blessings, and not problematise myself over them.
Of course, perhaps there may be no scientific, objective definition for ‘first-world problems’, but I feel I pretty much failed and broke Lent with my first thought as I woke up on Ash Wednesday.
Perhaps there is no bigger first-world problem or first-world activity than the ‘existential crises’ than one like myself might face when waking up and trying to sleep. By that I do not mean a ‘real’ existential crisis in terms of a life-and-death survival issue, but just an utterly first-world problematising way of thinking: That morning I was just in bed worrying myself about ‘existential’ prospects of study and career next year (or indeed having an ‘existential crisis’ over being single) — not that I would actually be starving or facing death.
In light of that, I realised how such a way of thinking, these ‘existential crises’ just seem to fill my life. For Wednesday, after I got out of bed, it included ‘Should I go to an Ash Wednesday service or not? If so, should I wear my hair differently for the imposition of ashes? What should I have for lunch? Would I have time to make it to the service if I cooked A? Or should I cook B? Or should I skip lunch altogether? Maybe I should eat out…’
But in light of my Lenten aims, I guess I realised perhaps the ‘existential crisis’ is not ultimate first-world problem. By trying to give up first-world problems — and problematising myself with it, I have encountered a (first-world) problem of having first-world problems, if you will, a meta-first-world problem. Does first-world problematisation get more first-world problematic than this?
Pathetically first-worldly this all may seem, it nonetheless seems to me that at least my failings reveal to me how my life is constituted by first-world problems, and perhaps there’s all the more to be thankful for through my failings.