Covid-19 isolation has provided me much time to pause and reflect. Gone for at least the moment are travel plans, eating in restaurants, converging with others, etc. We are typically homebound. Perhaps this deprivation might lead to discovering or rather rediscovering other delicacies in our lives.
Do we actually have too much of a good thing?
In our modern world, we can have almost anything. The ironic result is that fewer things ever bring us real joy any more. We’ve become increasingly difficult to please. In our modern age, we (the privileged minority) can order almost anything online and not even venture more than a few steps outside our door to receive them. We can travel anywhere cheaper than ever with almost all of the planet available to us.
In our modern age, sophisticated algorithms are established to never leave us bored, while streaming services have the next television episode lined up so we don’t even have to hit “play.”
A simple day in the park just doesn’t do anything for many of us anymore. Like an addict, we must constantly increase our dose of stimuli to get that same high.
Just as the confused tourist on a cruise ship, we hardly know which country we’re in as we disembark, shop, consume, and move along to the next attraction. We go out every weekend and spend our vacations in a hurried blur between major landmarks. Our experiences feel far less special and we scarcely ever appreciate them. Many consume hundreds of miles on the road to click off their next Instagram-worthy journey and then move quickly on to the next.
During the Holidays, I’ve watched children open their presents stacked in piles under the tree with an almost ferocity only then to mostly be forgotten. The presents are carted away in a huge shopping bag and stuffed into the trunk of her car while the children retreat to their digital devices.
Similarly a trip abroad was once a long affair spent absorbing foreign cultures. But now it’s a weekend city break for shopping and photo ops. Like children’s presents, our numerous experiences are quickly packed away, undigested in massive folders of smartphone snapshots, while we’re already bored and moving on to the next adventure.
Harkening back to childhood, three television stations, a host of books, playing outside with perhaps a bicycle and little more, along with spending time with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and neighbors playing and talking, or simply spending uninterrupted time at the supper table nightly didn’t seem so bad.
We received far fewer gifts than children do in modern-day America. But this made our gifts far more treasured and, dare I say, our times more joyous.
And while I’m not advocating a return to a monk-like denial of pleasure, have we tipped the scales far too much towards irrelevant excess?
When the pandemic put many of our usual entertainments on hold, some complained that their boredom drove them insane. It made them crazy and desperate enough to sing, bake, read a book, take a walk, start a journal or new hobby, or even call an old friend. These are things my parents or grandparents might have naturally done, but are typically far too slow-paced to captivate our attention.
If we want off this roller coaster of fast, cheap and unfulfilling fun, and a return to the days when we could enjoy a simpler, but perhaps even more fulfilling life, we can’t wait. We must become more intentional and selective in how we spend our time and resources. We must become life connoisseurs and not gluttons of experiences.