Are Modern Conveniences Turning us Soft?
Here in the developed world, we’re spoiled.
Machines do the lion’s share of our physical chores. Vehicles carry our bodies. Soon, I imagine, we’ll have robots whose job it is to chew our foods, do all our thinking for us and even wipe our ars- tears away.
And where our distant ancestors would have been more than content with the essentials: food, water and a warm shelter, most of us would pity any poor wretch without access to a 42 inch TV, decent Wifi and a twelve month subscription to Netflix.
While I wouldn’t have it any other way (I’ve experienced life with a toddler and no washing machine so I know what I’m talking about), I have a sneaking suspicion that all this comfort and convenience might not be such a good thing.
In fact, I think it could be turning us all into grade A milksops.
Let me tell you a story.
A while back I read somewhere online that cold showers were good for you. Apparently they boosted testosterone levels, revved up the metabolism, armour proofed the immune system and as if that wasn’t enough, gave you the mental fortitude of a Victorian eccentric.
Brilliant, I thought.
How hard can it be?
The first time that spray of icy water hit me square in the chest I gasped, swallowing so much (chilly) air, I spent the next half an hour with hiccups.
Not that I was unduly bothered. I was too busy shivering.
But I persevered. My next shower was cold. And the one after that and so on, for about six weeks.
At this point in the narrative, I imagine you’re expecting me to say that it got easier. That I started to relish that sub Antarctic spume of freezing water. That I found it invigorating. Refreshing.
Well, I didn’t.
I began to dread it. I made excuses not to shower. I got a bit whiffy.
So I quit.
While a return to regular showering has done wonders for my inter personal relations, my ego is left somewhat bruised. Clearly I am a wimp.
A namby-pamby weakling who lacks the strength of character to dip a toe outside of his comfort zone.
Which, while depressing, is at least understandable. Because having lived a sheltered, molly coddled, existence as a child of the technological age, I’ve never really had too.
I’m willing to bet that, in your own way, you’re a bit of a wimp too. Come on, admit it.When was the last time you pushed yourself to do something you found uncomfortable, or demanding, or just a little bit hard?
How many of you rely on your computers calculator, even for the most basic of sums? Do you take the elevator to the top floor, or the stairs?
When was the last time you carried your shopping all the way home instead of driving or taking the bus? How long do you wrestle with a crossword clue before you give in and ask Uncle Google what the answer is?
In the grand scheme of things these might be incredibly minor challenges, but they go someway to proving how cushioned we are in our daily existence.
But the thing is, one day life will invariably throw us a curve ball.
And if we continually shy away from experiences that we find difficult, how do we honestly expect to develop the mental toughness and resilience required to deal with the demands of that situation?
Someone once said ‘it is our struggles that define us’. While that might sound a little bit Nietzschean, they might have hit on something there.
So, my next shower…it’s going to be cold.
Or at the very least lukewarm.