It’s hard to know what something really costs, isn’t it?
I mean, if you buy a piece of clothing you find appealing, and you begin to explore where it was made, who designed it, how and by whom it was manufactured, and the source of the raw materials used to create it . . . you could almost fill a small book.
The storybook I used to read as a young boy . . . you know the one that shows where food comes from, and traces the journey back from the milkman, etc. is a profound resource that creates a much-needed perspective on life. I no longer remember the name or details of the book, but the concept it taught remains with me to this day.
The business world is very cost-conscious, of course. Businesses that don’t count the cost do not usually last very long. And lasting a long time, or at least long enough to make a healthy profit or create a healthy benefit for people, tends to be a well accepted raison d’etre for any business.
I had a conversation with a friend yesterday regarding the pace at which we live our lives in the United States, and we contrasted that with the apparent pace of life in much of Europe. For example, both of us were familiar with the enormous number of “holidays” that friends of ours seem to have in Holland and Germany.
In spite of the fact that we tend to view pioneers in our nation’s history as harder working than us lazy 21st century Americans (and no doubt their comparative deprivations were sizeable), and we muse about how we probably wouldn’t last a day without air conditioning or central heat, etc. the truth is we work longer hours and carry much more stress than our forbears ever dreamed was humanly possible.
And . . . they might be right! Now granted, we live longer, grow taller, our athletes are stronger and faster, our level of production is something that would cause a John Henry to drop his steel-driving 20 pound hammer and shrink in awe. We are rather amazing, aren’t we?
But heart disease is killing up prematurely, various cancers are rampant, and our fascination with all things technical has taken up captive with our iPhones, iPads, Apple watches, and multifarious devices; things intended to save time have made it possible for us to fill our time even more efficiently. “Time is money,” we have often said. And money is what we want. What we need. What we must have. At any cost.
The high incidence of criminal indictments for fraud, tax evasion, insider trading and the like is testimony not only to the long standing human predicament, but also to the fact that think we need so much more than can be honestly derived.
My 2016 heart attack has caused me to rethink a great deal of what I used to take for granted. One thing that continues to haunt me is the notion that the way I learned to live my life, the way I learned to work (from 7th grade onward) at a go-at-fast-as-possible pace, may have indeed led to a heart attack in an otherwise healthy-looking man in his early 60s.
Our life patterns are usually begun at a very young age. And changing them is like pulling teeth; most of us think we would rather just ignore the decay and make the best of it, even though we know extraction is the only thing that will bring relief.
Do you, for instance, know the true cost
of the way you are living your life?
We look around us at the Jones’s (you know, the ones we’ve always had to “keep up with”) and what they have, and we arrive at a standard of living that we accept; we would swear by it like the rising and setting sun. We berate ourselves until we reach it. And when we do we set our sights a bit higher and choose a new and improved family of Jones’s with whom we compete.
And who can begin to say what effect television and movies have had on our standards; cloistered in our homes we make friends of flickering images on the screen in front of us, and we look to them to define our relationship standards, our income standards, and our whole way of life. After all, dealing with real people as become an outmoded skill; we have machines that do that now.
And the stress is crushing us. But we do not relent!
We cannot drop the steel-driving hammer. We cannot surrender. We cannot do the thing that would bring us more peace, more health, more joy, more . . . . for fear that we will fall behind in the race to – the race to . . . . What exactly? What are we racing toward in such a headlong fashion?
We are, as it has been phrased, “hell bent.” That is one goal I think we will attain.
My heart attack makes me want to reconsider some things.
Like almost everything about how I function.
Is it too late for me to change? Time will tell.
But I can make a marathon out of a simple household task. I can attempt to “fill every minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run” (thank you, Rudyard Kipling), but is that what will truly bring me life?
I want to get off the treadmill, out of the hamster’s cage with the spinning wheel powered only by my effort. I want to learn how to rest. How to simply BE.
I hope you will go with me, if only because that will make it easier to keep going the right direction. But with you or not, I must go. I must reset my sights. And honestly, I think I may need a whole new operating system.