“Did You Have to Drink Your Own Urine Today?” A Lesson in Contentment
December 6, 2011 1 Comment
Recently, I had the opportunity to go hear Aron Ralston speak in Fayetteville as a part of the University of Arkansas‘s Distinguished Lecture Series. If you don’t know who Aron Ralston is, you have probably heard his story: he is an explorer/adventurer who got stuck while canyoneering in Utah and was forced to cut his own arm off or die in the canyon. His story of survival was made into a full-length movie entitled 127 Hours. You can read the details of Aron’s story here.
Aron began his presentation in Fayetteville by saying, “While my story [having to cut my own arm off] may seem like a tragedy, it’s one of the greatest things to happen to me.” He then went on to share the details of his experience and his life since then for the crowd. To wrap up his lecture, he shared some practical applications that the audience could take away from his story including:
- “Live your dreams. Follow your passions.”
- “Rather than wallow in self-pity after my trial, I got back to my life & to my passions.”
- “It’s not enough to enrich our own lives; we need to enrich the lives of others.”
- “The boulders in our lives teach us what to value and how rich life is. May your boulders be blessings too.”
Those are all great pieces of advice; however, the quote that stood out from the night was this:
“Whenever I feel like complaining, I ask myself, ‘Did I have to drink my own urine today?’ That’s a bad day. Haha.” -Aron Ralston
After you get done laughing, think about that quote for a second. While trapped in the canyon, Aron got go the point that he ran out of clean water in his canteen and so had to drink his urine to prevent major dehydration (not too mention he was about to have to cut his own arm off). Ralston’s statement points out something about our culture: we are quick to complain. How often do you hear someone complaining about something petty like “My iPhone is slow”, “I wanted my steak cooked medium-well, not well-done”, or “I hate my job”? I know I’m guilty. However, as I pointed out in my “Skipping Thanksgiving” post: Do you realize how much you have that others in the world don’t? (that post goes on to list some statistics that help put things in perspective). After listening to Aron speak, I realized I needed to practice contentment.
Contentment is defined as: “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are; assenting to or willing to accept circumstances, a proposed course of action, etc.” In other words, we are satisfied with where we are at in life; not that we aren’t trying to improve our lot in life, but it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. This is a hard lesson to learn in a culture that encourages us to go after “more, better, bigger, faster” things and that tells us “the grass is always greener on the other side.” That is why it is good to take second to put things into perspective before complaining about something. For example, rather than complaining about your job, realize that at least you have a job. There are many people in our country right now that don’t have a job at all and would kill to have the opportunity to do the job you are complaining about. Though there are days it is tough and you may not enjoy it, be content knowing that you get a paycheck that helps support yourself and your family.
Being content is difficult and counter-cultural, but will make your life a lot more enjoyable and full of thanks. So, next time you feel like complaining, ask yourself: “Did I have to drink my own urine today?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s been a good day.
I’ll close this post with a video about contentment. A few years ago, comedian Louis CK went on Conan O’Brien’s show and had this to say:
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
For further reading on contentment, I recommend reading “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence” by Stephen Altrogge
[image credit: Penn State on Flickr]