Convenience is, well, convenient. But in the laws of nature, by which we are inextricably bound, life moves perpetually towards a state of balance: welcome to Systems Theory 101. So for every ‘convenience’, there must be an equalising ‘inconvenience’ that we must pay. I believe that price is our relationships.
Life is about relationships. Not just the type you have with your dog, your spouse, your children, your friends. We are in relationship with everything in our lives: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It seems to me that in our ‘modern’ or developed cultures, the drive towards ever increasing convenience has occurred through a warping of our relationship with time. Without attempting any philosophical discourse – I wouldn’t dare – it appears that our relationship with time is overriding our relationships with everything else. We are hounded to busyness, to do more, to be more productive, to be efficient, to cram bigger and better experiences into shorter attention spans – all words that have time internalised in their very fabric. And our obsession with convenience seems to be a result.
Just about everything is convenient these days. The most obvious is convenience foods: fast-food, take-outs, frozen food, pre-packaged TV dinners, heat-and-eat box meals. Want to lose weight – don’t worry about exercise, just take a convenient pill. Toddlers being a hassle – pop them in front of a convenient TV cartoon to distract them. But convenience has become even more subtle: keeping in touch with friends is more convenient using social media. Entertainment is conveniently packaged in movie theatres, or even better, now downloadable from satellite TV. Disposable nappies are just less hassle. And I think that’s the butt of the issue (pardon the pun): anything deemed a ‘hassle’ is a problem that needs solving by making it more convenient.
It would be very easy to get into a proselytising rant about the sustainability consequences of convenience – social, environmental, and economic. But I’m more keen, in the spirit of 365ideas4change, to think about – and find out about – what happens if we choose one ‘inconvenient’ thing, and do it? We accept that while we’re doing that thing, we are sacrificing doing something else. But what are we gaining? What relationships are changing in my life when I forgo convenience? My particular weakness is work pressure and food preparation. For ages, I told myself that I don’t have time to cook properly: I mostly snacked like a pale rabbit for five months. I decided to change that because I was feeling so darn awful. One fairly predictable change was my relationship with my body: I feel better physically, mentally and emotionally, probably because I’m less stressed, and definitely because I’m eating better. .What I’m fascinated by are some other relationships that changed. My relationship with music – instead of snacking at my computer or worse, in front of the TV, I now cook with music on and rediscovered some of my old favourites, and I sing along. My relationship with books: cooking for a vegetarian diabetic can be a challenge, so I use recipes. My relationship with work: I am getting just as much done, yet I’m spending less time doing it – I think its because I have more energy so don’t pass out in a dull stupor soon after eating. My relationship with money: fresh food here in Johannesburg is cheaper than pre-packed. And quite obviously, yet unexpected, my relationship with the greengrocer family, from whom I buy tiny portions of things on my way home every few days. Seems all nauseatingly trite, but its really rather wonderful.
What relationships have we sacrificed because of the ‘hassle’ factor? And what of our relationships might change if we do something just terribly inconvenient once in a while?