The Inconvenience of Living and The Efficiency of Life
This morning is day three of a much-needed cleanse the Earthquake Man and I have started. It isn’t particularly rigorous. Just long (one month). We already eat pretty well, but we love our glasses of wine, the EQM loves his coffee, and of course, we love chocolate. Nope. None of it...not for now. It’s already having it’s way with us. But the biggest shift in our lifestyle is the time it takes to plan our meals...to actually think about nutrition in a way that cannot default to, “well, I can just pick something up at the deli...” or “we can just take the kids out to eat tonight.” This thinking about nutrition takes a lot of time! Which was simply a fact of life back when there was a reverent - celebrated in fact - division of labor and women attended to the foundation of life (home, hearth, raising children, growing food) because without that, nothing else was possible. So, this morning I was reminded of something:
As I was doing my Master’s Thesis back in 1991, when I was 25, I came across this simple humorous anecdote that honestly changed my life. I think I found it in one of those Reader’s Digest “Best Quotes of The Century” anthologies our grandparents tend to have on the backs of their toilets next to the oddly luminous profile picture of Jesus - "The pilot makes the announcement, 'Well ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is we’re making excellent time! The bad news is, we’re completely lost.' ”
We now have a culture built on this seductive concept we have learned to worship: CONVENIENCE. Oooo...even saying it makes me feel a little excited, eager: convenience.....yesssssss....pleasssseeeee. My God, It’s SEXY.......Our mass-food culture, our intimacy culture, our lifestyle itself, in fact, our relationship to all other beings (the ‘its’ and ‘objects’ we talk about) are all woven high and monolithic on a foundation of convenience.
Of course: convenience. It’s logical. Time is finite. Stuff has to get DONE. BAM! But the very nature of convenience is antithetical (by definition) to intimacy and relationship, which are, we now know, the only experiences that bring us upright mammals true meaning (whether it is relationship to self, to truth, purpose, to other, to god/spirit). We cannot prioritize both relationship and convenience. We cannot simultaneously pursue convenience and intimacy. And because the economy of daily life is now our primary concern, convenience will always win over intimacy. (And let me clarify that by “intimacy” I do not mean sex or physical contact. I mean ‘relationship with’, ‘emotional connection’ ‘meaning’, the sense of ‘being seen’ by the world, by an other, by anything at all actually.)
In our quest for convenience there is a simple but unavoidable fact working its way to the surface here, as our marriages crumble, our glaciers melt and our sense of happiness erodes out from underneath us despite our microwavable food, our stacking function smart phones and our twelve-speed vibrators. We cannot subvert or sublimate relationship. It’s the immutable basis of all Life. No matter how convenient a McDonald’s Big Mac is, it started as fresh running water, corn, cows, wheat, etc. which all require relationship in order to become. Theoretically, at the kernel of this quest for the almighty ‘Convenience’ is a desire to experience more meaningful lives. But the very nature of convenience is antithetical to Life. We cannot celebrate both. The more convenience we achieve, the less efficient we actually are, the less meaning and richness we experience because we have strip-mined the intimacy out of the relationship.
This feels like an important awareness for me to remember as I race to get the EQM out the door with enough food to truly nourish his (amazingly gourgeous, strong) 6’2” man's body, while attending to client scheduling, emails, kids’ appointments, the needs of our sadly neglected but dearly loved elkhound and somewhere in there, my own love affair with The World, which is allegedly my first priority (as inconvenient as it is).
I glance outside on this eight degree mid-winter morning to see the finches fighting fiercely over the sunflower seeds and just beyond that, the quiet bee hive, within which the surviving females are practicing the most extraordinarily efficient love affair with Life imaginable....doing nothing at all other than breathing.