Saturday, March 9, 2013

What Are You Saving All That Time For?

Advertising pretty steadily tells us we need more convenience, cleaning products to work faster or without us, food that comes ready to eat and requires no clean up, clothes that need no attention, etc. I know this trend has built for years and years, and I see no sense in trying to turn that tide. There are many, many conveniences for which I am truly grateful- hot water on demand, produce in March, light bulbs, freezers, a vacuum cleaner...

Yet- around the holidays, I heard the refrain, "At least I didn't HAVE to cook!" everywhere I went. I wondered at this. Food is a sacrifice we make to honor a "holy" day, even if we are not particularly keen on the historic underpinnings of a particular one. Our family is not Christian, but we mark Christmas as a time apart, a time to honor the light of life in the world, and the food we prepare around that time is an offering. We cook then, and at Thanksgiving, AND when we have company throughout the year, as a way of honoring the little graces in our lives. My feelings on this run strong, so I was baffled why people just could not be bothered.

I have stewed on this for almost three months, and because of that, I've been more likely to see other behaviors in a similar light. For example, I am surprised by the number of things people set in front of children to keep the children from bothering the adults. We adults are SUPPOSED to socialize children, and by merely pacifying them, we're neglecting a duty. They are not "a bother", they're our future. Don't get me wrong; I am not one of those people who spends every waking minute in bliss with my little cherubs. Instead, I have taught them that I deserve space. I have respected their needs for time, but as they have gotten older, their needs MUST be balanced against my mental health. Also, I want to talk to other adults about things that do not concern children, so sometimes, they must "go play". But all of this is actually teaching and socializing them. If you cannot get anything done or talk on the phone or cook dinner because your children are "bothering" you, then you need to fix that, not pacify them with the drug of technology.

Much of life could be seen as a bother- not just child rearing or cooking for holidays. But it's life. Our little struggle against entropy IS all there is to it, so when we give all the bothersome tasks short shrift we should ask ourselves why. Should dinner be easier and faster so we can get back to our screens? When we say we don't have time for hobbies, what have we actually done with the minutes of our days?

There is a short story by Eric Metaxas called "The Monkey People" in which the people of a village give all their daily tasks to a group of monkeys, so that they have more time for more important things like thinking important thoughts. However, the people are NOT made happier by giving up all these bothersome tasks. In fact, they just get more irritable and unhappy. Maybe our medicated culture should reflect and see whether we've given away all the bothersome tasks that might actually bring a sense of purpose and contentment.

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