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I got excellent feedback yesterday regarding my point about the laid back European lifestyle and the uptight American lifestyle.  I need to make a correction:  Europeans are probably not more laid back because of their faith (or lack thereof).  We, here in the States, are probably more intense, uptight, and challenged in the "fun" areas of life because of our faith and religions, and more specifically, the main product produced by our faith.  Guilt.

Let me try to make a point.  We don't go to the gym?  We feel guilty.  We eat chocolate?  We go to the gym because we feel guilty for eating the chocolate.  If we don't go to the gym, we gain weight and then we feel guilty for eating and chocolate AND not going to the gym.

Substitute, bread, carbs, beer, high-caloric foods, butter, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and you've got the same thing.  Or, substitute working too many hours, not working enough hours, not making enough money, not being able to buy the latest (___ insert your favorite thing you don't own here).  How much time do we spend with family?  Working long hours, commuting to work, tired when we get home (and must get to the gym!) so when are we supposed to play with the kids?  The kids!  They've got iPods plugged into their ears, got more Wii games for the holidays and every weekend they have sleep overs.  When do we see them, and what do we talk about when do we do see them?

Even better, how about replacing the aforementioned chocolate with sex?  Too much sex?  Not enough sex?  Sex you have to talk your partner into?  Sex with the wrong person?  Didn't call the next day?  Feeling awkward?  Being unfaithful?  Don't love her any more?  There's more.  That's the point.  There's always something more to feel guilty about.

Do Europeans simply not feel this guilt?  I'm not sure it's that simple.  What I do know is almost (?) everything I just mentioned, they do differently.  Shorter work weeks, more vacation time, eating with family, doing things with family, enjoying food (including the "bad" ones our doctors tell us not to touch), are sexually more free, smoke their way through the streets, and seem happier and healthier.  So then, why don't they feel guilty?  I can't answer that.  But, I can attempt to answer the part about our guilt.

When through religion, we place more emphasis on what we do wrong than right, and when we are wrong, are expected to focus our energies on fixing that wrong and not doing that again, it eats away at joy.  How often do we truly celebrate life?  Stores put out holiday merchandise right after Halloween.  The emphasis doesn't seem to be placed on the fun or the intent behind celebrating.  Ask yourself this:  do you really, really like going home for the holidays?  Do you truly love spending time with your family?  Or, is it more an obligation than a treat?

If we could shed the emphasis placed on our differences (and what is wrong with those differences) and could embrace the joy of life, and if our various religions could help us by giving us a foundation of love, wouldn't this world be a better place?  (If it sounds overly simplistic, dos that mean it can't be true?)  Why must we focus on the negative?  Why must we feel guilty?  Why must we be good if being good makes us feel miserable?  This is not to say break the law if it makes you feel good.  There are rules, yes.  But, when religious laws don't coincide with our personal happiness, why do we keep following them?  Or, why do we break them and they feel that guilt?  Clearly, this is not a subject with easy answers.  I do stand by my observations of the Europeans, though.  I like they way they live.  I like their laughter.  I like the freedom with which they can express themselves without worrying about the stigma.

Why, seriously, can't we put butter on our baguette without figuring out how late the gym will be open?  I contemplate this as I try to figure out when I can get to the gym today.


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Jan 7, 2009
    • exactly teek.

      And the fact that to be able to live and have a good life, it boils down to the almighty dollar that seems to be the focus of the USA.  

      There are some that live the carefree life...the 1% of us that own all the money.  


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Shari Tenner wrote Jan 7, 2009
    • Well if we look at the way we live and the way the people of Italy or Paris live, just look at the difference in the amount of stuff we have.  There are no payless shoes in Paris—no BOGO.  No yard sales, no Sams club or BJ warehouse.  They buy what they need.  Do with less but in essence have more.  Eat to live but enjoy the pure flavor and best, food, people....The family dynamic is different, time is important—a family meal-vacation w/ family....So it’s the mind set.  Life is short...use your time wisely...

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