Progress Has a Price – Do We Know It?

Almost every day, someone will remark to me that time is moving faster. Sometimes they will say that they have less of it than they used to, but the result is the same. I experience this in my own life, too. It seems there is a constant rush to complete tasks and catch up, and that one is never quite caught up. My precious reading time, my occasional trips to the mountains, even my time to visit friends have all fallen victim to this phenomenon.

What is happening? As of yet, no one has been able to give me a complete explanation.   Some say that the (not quite defined) vibes are moving faster; others say it is simply the effect of age, although young people also remark the shrinking of time. Still others think that there is an explanation in quantum physics. The pattern I see is the steady and increasingly rapid onward march of technology.

We humans, with our innately creative minds, have a tendency to eagerly embrace the newest development without first taking the time to assess what will be the probable outcomes of those developments, projected, say, ten or twenty years into the future. We are thus thrust partly aware into living with consequences we had not foreseen, and are often quite unprepared to engage. In other words, our minds have leaped ahead, and the rest of our being is doing its best to catch up. Catch up – sounds familiar.

I do believe that all these wonderful things we have created to save us time have, in some indecipherable way, actually robbed us of the time we thought we were going to gain by availing ourselves of their services. For example, when my grandmother was growing up, they swept the carpets or put them on a clothesline and beat them with a paddle. That did take some time. When the vacuum cleaner was invented, the housewife was then predicted to have leisure time resulting from being freed from the task of cleaning the carpets by hand.   However, most housewives found themselves busier than ever. The time supposedly freed by the new device, which everyone now had, was taken up by other work that suddenly needed doing? The same situation repeated itself with other new appliances, such as the electric washer and the electric clothes dryer. Newer and faster automobiles seem to produce more places that need to be rushed to.

It is not that these developments are bad; they are certainly awesome in their own right. However, for each of these developments, something is lost, and we do not seem to be aware of what is lost until it is too late to recover it. For example, now that we have highly convenient clothes dryers, we no longer have the scent of the wind and fresh cut grass that used to adorn the clothes we hung on the clothesline. Or, now that we have the wonderful GPS to tell us to turn right or left without our thinking much, the skill of map reading is vanishing; in fact, it is difficult to even find any updated maps to read. The use of calculators in schools to do simple math computations has resulted in fewer students who know their number facts, and cashiers who are unable to make change unless a computer tells them what to do. Did we want to lose those skills???   We didn’t ask those questions, as we were moving forward.

I think we need to ask those questions, and figure out how to include in the relentless march forward the values of what we have lost. It is wonderful to have, for example, an excellent cook to serve us meals. However, if we have lost the skill of knowing our way around a kitchen, we are vulnerable, at the mercy of the cook, or at least of having a cook. As we go forward, who will be the masters – the marvelous devices, or ourselves?

Peace,  Diane