“A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone” ~ Isaac Watts.
I lived in England for a year when I was around 14. That was the year the first man set foot on the moon (unless the conspiracy theorists are correct!). But there were other more mundane discoveries. Don’t ask me how, but you could add hot water to some white flaky wafers and voila! Instant mashed potatoes! I remember the ad on TV around that time; alien space creatures fixing their own mashed potatoes, laughing at the earthlings who went to all the trouble of boiling potatoes for 20 minutes then smushing them into bits!
A visitor to the US soon becomes used to the ease and convenience of life. I have only lived in South Florida, so I have no experience of big city dwelling, where cars are a nuisance not a necessity. And in South Florida we have drive-thru everything. After a while you become annoyed at the thought of having to park your car and actually walk into a store to make a purchase. You will drive around and around looking for the closest parking space to the door. And not because it is snowing or bitterly cold, no, because it is hot! But trust me, if it is a loaf of bread you need, you can drive through the Farm Store. Need to get some cash – you have two choices, drive through teller, or drive through ATM. Pick up your prescriptions? Drive through. Best yet: feel like having a mind-altering adult beverage? Drive-thru liquor store! And you wonder why in the US today one third of the population are either pre-diabetic or already have type 2 diabetes.
In a relatively short space of time we have gone from hand-made, hand-washed outfits to clothes which are to all intents and purposes disposable. Clothes so cheap and so cheaply made that we don’t expect to pass them down through a family. Most of my favorite outfits as a child were not only handed down to me (I was the youngest), they may very well have been second-hand when my sisters had them. I can still remember a dress that came in a box from America (some donations continued long after WWII ended). It was white with red tulips and a long red sash that tied in a big bow at the back. The skirt was full enough that when I twirled around it almost umbrellad out at 90 degrees (that was my dream!).
The downside of convenience and advances in technology is that we have lost the art of waiting patiently. We tap our foot while staring at the microwave, how can two minutes take so long? We expect instant answers when we send a text, or an email. Remember how long it took for airmail letters to arrive? Even when we had telephones, the cost of long-distance calls was prohibitive. If we really needed to contact someone in a hurry we sent a telegram (and they only ever brought bad news). In the 70s my father suffered a heart attack. It turns out the EKG showed it had already happened when he finally went to the doctor complaining of shoulder ache which he assumed was due to the winding country roads. He was admitted to the hospital for a while. My mother set off no alarms by calmly sending airmail letters informing those of us who were not living in Jamaica at the time. So by the time we read the news he was already home!
Of course, the biggest culprit in our new world of instant everything is the internet. No longer do we have to find a dictionary or an encyclopedia or a friend with a long memory when we need to clarify a question or win a bet. No longer do students have to go to a library and fight with tightly packed drawers of cards sorted by the Dewey decimal system to locate obscure books in a dusty library. Now with the entry of a few key words thousands of articles appear on a page, providing us with a surfeit of references, a plethora of possibilities.
But what have we lost along the way? And most of all, what are those most vulnerable and naïve among us learning? What is lost when we don’t recognize the value, when everything seems so easy? What lessons are our children and grandchildren learning? Easy come easy go so goes an old saying. It is only when you have to labor long and hard over a home cooked meal that you can appreciate what it takes to prepare a meal ‘from scratch’. It is only when you create your own first hand-made garment, whether through knitting, crochet or sewing that you can appreciate the skill and consistency required.
A friend recently described a TV show where a family had to live for 3 months in a home that was set in 1900. Just imagine the lack of amenities, the chores, the lack of hot water, the lack of comfortable clothes. We’ve come a long way baby, but do we appreciate all of the conveniences of modern life?
Unfortunately the desire for instant everything translates to our health. We may spend a lifetime abusing our bodies, making bad choices when it comes to food and exercise. Then when we either don’t like how we look, or start to have health issues, we want to find a diet or join a gym and see instant results! When we go to a doctor we don’t want to hear that we have to develop healthier habits, we want to take a piece of paper to the drive-thru pharmacy and take a pill! As a teacher I get frustrated with nursing students who believe they can google their way to becoming a nurse. There must be a quicker way, right?
There is nothing like surrounding yourself with Mother Nature to remind yourself of the need to be patient, to observe the patience with which life’s cycles are supposed to play out. Last weekend I visited Atlanta, at a time of year when perhaps the fall foliage was past its best, but to my South Floridian customed eyes, it was a treat. The yellows and oranges and reds and browns suited my palette to a T. Everywhere my eye glanced I saw another beautiful combination, or a solid block, or a surprising flash of red among evergreens. It was cold, yes, but again, to a South Floridian that is a refreshing break from humidity and heat.
This Friday morning I hope that you can take a pause from your hectic, instant everything life and find a way to slow it down, to pay attention, and to appreciate this life of ours. When we get caught up in the rat race, the treadmill, the urgent must have must do list of our lives we miss out on the moments, the brief possibilities that may fly away if we’re not careful.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!