Question 18.2

I took a shit today in the cleanest, safest drinking water that man has ever known. While two thirds of the world lives on less than a dollar a day, I spent 1.97 on a casual cup of thin black coffee and let it get cold. I look at my carbon footprint, crushing the earth under the tonnage of my commute, of my casual vices, and I believe, for a moment in bigfoot. The wild parts of my country have been roped off as eco amusement parks, and I have the good fortune to enjoy them on a lark instead of having to attempt to eek out a strained and exhausted living toiling in the soil until my stooped and weathered back breaks under the weight of too many years, and I lay dying face down in the dry, eroded gray dirt of subsistence farming. Instead I may decide today to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables from a dozen different nations, each picked and shipped hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles to me. I may cook them, or simply let them spoil in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator because I decide to go out instead. Out, to a restaurant where undocumented workers will avoid my eyes as they scurry about, sweating in the kitchen, sweating as they bus tables and wash dishes, wondering if they will have enough time to get to their second job tonight, wondering if the boss will try to stiff them again, and desperate to scrounge enough money together to feed their wives, their children, their mothers.

In the absence of these pressures, I am allowed a life of near perfect historical luxury. I have abundant heating and cooling that I control on a whim, personal property, protected, safe, and private. I have, for the sheer hell of it, animals that eat and drink better than most people on the planet, and I keep them as pets for no other reason than I enjoy their company. I am opulent, and this is the first and most fundamental fact of my existence. I was born into a level of comfort and wealth that most of the world will never know, and to this I owe a tremendous debt. What terrible hubris it would be to accept the gifts of my fortune and to not make every effort to use these advantages to transform myself. I have an obligation to kindness, since I have no excuse to be cruel. I have an obligation to generosity and charity. I owe a debt of patience, of humility. I owe it to myself to grow intellectually. I owe to my friends and family and neighbors the sweat of my brow at their request. I am obligated to honesty, to work, to a striving effort in all the things I do. I am obligated by the fact of my existence to attempt in that life to live a life of exemplary character and uncommon strength, since in this life I have no excuse otherwise. As I lay down every night on the soft pillow of benevolent comfort, I know that I am obligated, to assist where and when I can, to inspire, to lead, and to teach, so that the good fortune of my chance existence is never wasted.