In my ever-present dilemma of whether to stay near a city or unplug completely, I've discerned a disturbing pattern.
It occurred to me as I sat in my really great parking place at the local Shop 'n Save store. I'd been so happy to find it! On a busy day, the day of the shop's crazy-good specials, I'd managed to land a spot right by the door. I couldn't believe my luck. This awesome spot would allow me to run in and get the three little items I needed.
Ten minutes later, five of which had been spent at the bustling check-out (stop chatting and move it!), I hurried to my car. Except I couldn't drive away. There was a big truck parked behind me, blocking me in along with two other cars. Of course it would stop there, with blinkers blinking; it was right by the entryway. As was I. Except now, my spot wasn't so perfect, was it?
I pondered my realization as I watched the truck's blinkers continue to mock me. Yes, every time there's a convenience, there is a price. Even if that truck weren't hedging me in, for example, the parking spot close to the door is also the spot most likely to feature runaway carts. I sought the pattern elsewhere. Cars? They're great. Except now that I depend on one, I am lazy and don't combine errands the way I would if I had to ride a bus, or walk, or bike. And, cars (and airplanes) have allowed people to move far away from jobs, schools, extended families, etc.—which seems convenient until you consider all the traveling hassles—not to mention the extra money we spend going to those places frequently, even daily. Plus the pollution.
I love my washing machine, clothes dryer, and the dishwasher. Love them. However. The price? Now it's too easy to be clean, to toss a shirt or a drinking glass into the ever available receptacle for dirties. I don't need to be careful, don't need to be mindful of whether the item is truly dirty, because the solution is right there. Waste, and waste more. The same is true for indoor plumbing and a seemingly endless supply of hot water at the ready. Now? We're all obsessed with cleanliness; God forbid we smell like people instead of perfumes. The Europeans don't seem to have been sucked into this illness; perhaps we should find out how they remain immune to the lures of scentlessness...
Easy, breezy communication? I've already touched on that one, and how I truly believe it's cheapened and weakened our interactions, to the great detriment of our language and relationships. Prepared foods? They're often very unhealthy for you, and use more energy to prepare and deliver than locally grown or slaughtered. Fast food? Same thing, plus all those convenient foods cost you more money, too.
Disposable goods are so convenient, aren't they? Paper plates, napkins, little zip-lock baggies, plastic cups that no one bothers to recycle, plastic tablecloths for parties, etc. I'm just as guilty—I've used them, too. Although I do recycle the cups, and we certainly don't entertain much... But I digress. The point is that since all this stuff is as close and cheap as your nearest dollar store (filled to the gills with imported garbage, no offense to the stores intended), we have an insatiable hunger for junk just because it's there. It's so affordable. We forget that we'll never use it all, that we never needed it to begin with.
Easy entertainment via TV, movies, and games? Well, now we've forgotten to think for ourselves, and we're getting less exercise than ever before. Health costs continue to skyrocket, not just because the health care and drug companies are the new mafia, but because collectively we're in worse physical shape than pretty much any nation in history that I can think of.
The best part? We're teaching our kids to require all these conveniences. So they, too, can be slaves to big corporations and foreign countries. So they can also have lifelong habits that kill them softly instead of infusing their lives with meaning and purpose.
It seems to me that everything intended to add convenience to our lives actually costs us considerably in some other way. Does anyone else see the pattern? Is anyone else starting to question our culture?
Upon closer inspection, the remote countryside is looking pretty good. Harder, yes. But infinitely better than the squishy alternative.