If you’ve flipped on a light switch in the comfort of your home, and are sitting before a computer screen with the ability to read these words, you are among the lucky. Relative to the majority of humanity, you are in the top-tier of the fortunate.
This morning I’ve got statistics rolling around in my head, mulling over everything.
Facts like these:
Almost half the world – over 3 billion people – live on less than $1000 a year. (Think about this in relation to your own monthly income).
80% of humanity lives on less than $3700 a year.
Of the 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty.
2.6 billion people on this planet lack basic sanitation.
1.1 billion have inadequate access to water.
As I sit here, connected to the internet, sipping my organic coffee and conjuring words to share on the laptop that costs nearly as much as the annual lifeblood of over half the planet, I feel paralyzed. These numbers dig into me with a post-blissfully-ignorant-reality-bite.
Of course, one response could be gratitude. Count the blessings I’ve (somehow) luckily landed, that gives me more than the basics to live. Though I’ve had what I thought to be lean times – times when I struggled to make the rent or buy food – I’ve always had clean water, shelter, a war-free zone in which to live, and the ability to read and write.
As an artist, creatively expressing myself, I’m left to question what work matters. In light of these statistics, what reflections of my small struggles or triumphs mean a thing, when half of the world’s children are living in squalor?
In this information age, this world accounting is readily available for anyone that cares to learn. But there was a time when the knowledge wasn’t so instantly available. People lived and reflected upon the world within their physical view. Artists drew upon the influences of their immediate surroundings.
In the time of Georgia O’Keefe, did she question whether to bother painting bones and blooms, when so many on the planet were starving? And if the knowledge would have second-guessed her to the point of stopping, then the world would not have had Calla Lilies on Red.
I’m far from the artistry of O’Keefe. Not even close to that beauty that I am so glad was shared. No, I’m just a privileged American woman who takes the extravagances of her life for granted. A human consuming more than my fair share. An artist that wants to express herself in a way that serves the betterment of all, but is not sure how.
I’m a person, who, this morning, just can’t do more than try to fathom the number one billion. Try to perceive myself among the seven. Someone with the luxury to berate my blessings while wondering what to do.