Want to Trade?

There but for fortune go you or I Folk Singer Phil Ochs

In 1963, Phil Ochs penned a short song titled There but for Fortune asking us to have compassion for those less fortunate by putting ourselves in their places.   A recording of the song by Joan Baez reached the top ten in the UK but only #50 in the U.S.

I have heard people say that going to 12-Step meetings gives them a better perspective on life, an understanding that most people have problems … and some of them are a lot worse than our own.  The goal of meetings, of course, is not to lift us up by showing us others who are worse off but to show us that some of those people manage to lead happy, productive lives in spite of their problems.  But because people rarely wander into 12-Step meeting when their lives are getting on famously, I get to hear a lot about difficult times … and perhaps too little about the good ones.  But it makes it easy for me to remember … There but for Fortune.

I have to admit that sometimes, when life gets harder, I forget the wise suggestion of my sponsor not to compare myself to others.   I find myself wondering if there is anyone with whom I would trade places.   Naturally, I’m not looking down with compassion, I’m looking up, hoping to find something I can envy.   I was talking with Muri in the car on the way to Phoenix Thursday and posed the question to her … As a couple, is there anyone you’d trade places with?  I’d been through my list of friends and acquaintances and come up empty.   Do you want me to be honest? she asked.  Yes, I said.  I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely happy that she’d been thinking along the same lines and come up with a different result, but here we are, a few days later and I can see what she meant.   The couple she came up with seems to have a very nice life without the several things that make ours more difficult.  I’m inclined to wonder if they don’t have skeletons hiding somewhere but I know that’s just my defensive cynicism.   Muri’s always been better than I am at appreciating what others have without envy.

But to take the question one step further, is there anyone with whom I would Want to Trade places?  No.  Most lives seem to me to be a mix of blessings and trials, and while I may not have the biggest blessings or the worst trials, I know how to deal with my particular mix.   I’m inclined to believe that my particular mix is related to my life purpose, whatever that may turn out to be (I don’t believe God tells most of us what ourtorment purpose is because our egos couldn’t handle it).  In my life, I’ve seen perfect lives turn on a dime and I have no desire to trade into one that’s about to turn.  And maybe it’s because of years in meetings but I believe that everyone carries their own Little Torments, and at least mine are familiar Little Torments.   So, I’m staying put.  How about you?  Would you Want to Trade?

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3 Comments on “Want to Trade?”

  1. cherperz Says:

    No, there is no one I want to trade with. My life has been a really tough one that has consistently gotten better. That is my childhood was horrid, my early married years were happy but it took years to get financially secure, and today we are fairly spoiled …but as you say, all that can change in a heartbeat.

    The word trade implies I would of wanted to live someone’s life and have them live mine. I wouldn’t want to wish the bad parts of my life onto another person….not even to gain their easier life.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Cheryl – That is a very interesting take on the subject. It is probably either a reflection on me or my life that I didn’t even consider how it would affect others.


  2. There are certain aspects of various of my friends or family that I may envy now and again and really, show me anyone who says they have never envied or been jealous of someone at some point in time in their lives and so have I. But truthfully, I would never wish to trade with anyone -not a complete life for a life trade anyway. Maybe borrow a little of this or that from some folks now and again though!


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