Change dominates our lives. I wonder sometimes if it was always so, or whether we happen to live in an age in which change has particularly accelerated? More likely, the latter.
As a child, water was never in your thoughts – it was something to be used when needed, and wasted happily – how could we ever run out of water??? There was no need to worry about switching off unused lights. It was cheap, and it didn’t do anyone any harm. Big cars were all the rage, never mind the amount of petrol you burned up, or the tons of fumes you spouted out – the earth was big enough to deal with them. No need to lock your doors or close your windows when you went out. Toys and bicycles left on the front lawn for days would still be there when you needed them. And you could pick up a hitch hiker by the road without fear for your life. Kids roamed the suburban streets alone, played in public parks and went to public toilets on their own.
It sounds like another planet.
Today, out lives are taken up far more with technology, which makes wonder too. Technology is a good thing to have, but when you have something, do you really have to use it? Just because it’s there? Someone was joking recently about being addicted to their navigator. Sure, it’s a novelty at first, and then the convenience of it makes it quite useful, but at what price? What price do we pay for our technology addictions?
1. The brain loses skills. Why work out a sum in your head when a calculator can do it for you?
2. The body loses health. Why walk when you can hop in a car to get there?
3. The spirit loses life. Why think of the unseen world when there is so much to interest you in the seen one?
That is certainly a change I have noticed over the years, not least in myself. It can take quite a degree of will power to say, “Stop! I know the technology can do it faster / cheaper / easier, but it isn’t just a matter of getting it done. It’s also a matter of doing. And it is in the doing that I as a human being grow and develop, whether in mind, body or spirit.
I recall HH Pope Shenouda III commenting once on the criticism that today’s Coptic monks live a life of luxury compared to the days of the ancient desert Fathers. Today, they have a nice bed in their cells, a sink with running water (hot and cold). glass windows, and so on.
His response was, yes, that’s true, for this is the way of life from which they have come. But that doesn’t stop the individual monk from choosing to live an ascetic life. He can fill up one jug of water in the morning and make that his ration for the whole day, just as an ancient Father would fill up his jug from the spring in the morning and have to make do with it for the whole day. He can desert his bed and sleep on the floor. He can leave his windows open.
Our life isn’t only the environment we live in, but what we make of that environment, how we use it. Yes, our environment has changed. It has become more crowded, more insecure, more complicated. But that doesn’t mean that our lives have to follow the same trend.
Think about it…