Have you ever felt stuck in some sort of completely arbitrary and artificial human situation and found yourself envying a bird? A few days ago, I found myself in such a quandary, waiting in line to be processed for immigration and watching a bird perched on an electrical wire a few feet above. He could have flown off at any time, ignoring international borders and their guards, but he was content to sit where he was and stare down bemusedly on the long line of we humans waiting to have our passports stamped.
Sick with envy, I then mused that if I want the freedoms a bird enjoys, I would have to be willing to endure the risks a bird takes. He cannot visit the ATM and then go to a grocery store or restaurant to eat. Instead he has to consume the bugs and worms he can catch. He spends all his time in the open. I find too much time outdoors exhausting. I like to take a nap after lunch. If it’s hot out, I enjoy air-conditioning, and if it’s chilly, I crank up the heat.
So all freedoms have a price, and wishing that weren’t the case is merely an exercise in self-flagellation. In fact, envy itself tends to always involve a bit of voluntary self-torture, because it’s based in the arrogant supposition that you know enough about the object of your envy to make the comparison at all. You’re comparing your insides to somebody else’s outsides.