Giving Thanks

By Walt Williams


Rich people problems have got me thinking about my UMWELT. Yesterday, I woke up to this series of horrors: the spa was too cold, the ball machine was broken, I had to make my own breakfast and could someone please do something about these damn clouds? What kind of primitive hellhole have I landed in?


A week in a gated community in Encinitas and I’ve become that guy. Entitled and feeling like the world owes me a 101 degree spa. I jump in the 64-degree pool to reset my attitude, rising like the Phoenix, remembering I am in no way that guy.


“My parents got a divorce 6 years ago and they try and overcompensate at holidays. Then when they realize they can’t go back in time, they get drunk and mean.” This from a colleague who was explaining how much she doesn’t like Thanksgiving. I launched into my, “Every day above ground is a good day” lecture. I wish my parents were around, even drunk and mean is better than dead.


UMWELT is a German term meaning how one perceives and interacts with one’s world. It is one of my three favorite words along with homeostasis (balance) and Koyaanisqatsi (life out of balance).


“It is so important to us Germans, ” according to my friend Frank, ”that we always capitalize the word.”


UMWELT includes how things impact your life be they real

Or made-up It is the key to a good life and the best thing about it is you are totally in charge of it.


Holiday time is the perfect time to think about your UMWELT. Are you really living the way you want to? Do you care? Is it really that important to hold on to that fight with your sister? Is our newly elected president really worth losing friends over?


You have an average of 82 years to live, 718,320 hours. You sleep 257,398 hours that leaves 460,922 hours to work on your UMWELT. You believe Malcom Gladwell’s theory that you need 10,000 hours to master a subject that means that you can theoretically master about 47 different activities in your average life. 47 languages, 47 professions, 47 hobbies, 47 issues or whatever else you want to devote your time to.


Course you fill your hours with normal life stuff. Work, parenting, eating, TV, yard work (you once joked to your wife that your tombstone will read, “Here lies Walt, he kept a nice yard.”), exercise, watching cute kitty videos, hanging with friends, this is life. You are hitting a point in middle age where you realize; “Holy crap I haven’t done (insert life goal here)” and you’re starting to worry about your own UMWELT.


You think about the heavy hitters-Einstein, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK, and JFK: visionary people who changed the world. You wonder what other problems you could solve: world hunger, climate change, overpopulation, war, violence, and cancer — so many issues, so little time. Maybe you will get started tomorrow.


You fix the ball machine, turn up the spa, make some breakfast and smile as the clouds part. The horror is over, your UMWELT is strong.