Convenience and a Caveat

Benjamin Franklin once wrote,” …in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”   I do not argue with Mr. Franklin, but I would add one more thing.  Change is a certainty in life.  It surrounds us, and no matter how much we resist, it happens.    Not all of us are happy with that, though.  Change is often uncomfortable, and many notice with trepidation that change does not always seem under our control, even if we can influence it.  However, I would posit that one of the greatest factors that elicit people to resist change is inconvenience.    One example is climate change.  Embracing the change needed to ameliorate the potential disaster is an awesome, far-reaching task, requiring massive lifestyle changes, and is certainly not convenient.  Even the title of Al Gore’s book on the subject is “An Inconvenient Truth”.

At least here in the United States, and I would guess, among the moderately well off elsewhere, we have been raised to expect that life will be convenient.  Life should be pleasurable, as consistently happy as possible.  We should not be expected to take responsibility for what might cause us expense, extra effort, possible sorrow or pain.  We pay insurance companies to “protect” us from all that.  We litigate at the drop of a hat to place responsibility upon someone else, who should then pay to restore our happiness.  We eat pre-prepared foods to spare ourselves the effort of cooking.  We expect that schools and daycare centers should raise our children to be whatever we want them to be, but most of all, to give us no trouble when we come home tired from work.  Learning should be fun, hence effort-free, and it’s someone else’s job to make it so.  We should no longer be inconvenienced to learn grammar or spelling or even common arithmetic facts, because the computer will do all that.  Handwriting skills are a chore from the past because we have word processors and printers.   “Progress”, it seems, is almost synonymous with “convenience”.

Marketers are well aware of this phenomenon.  Products are designed to help us do less and less and think less and less, and the advertisements for these products emphasize in one way or another how convenient they are.   Classes in writing emphasize not grammar or varied vocabulary, but that we must make our writing convenient to read, requiring little or nothing of the readers.  It is almost as if the readers were considered to be a bit retarded.  Politicians make it as convenient as possible to agree with them, using convenient social media, convenient memes, convenient platitudes, convenient TV ads, and convenient means to donate (with a click.)    Thinking is not really required. Those who wish to discourage voting begin by making it inconvenient to vote.  Finances can now be done conveniently online, without the effort of keeping accounts or writing checks.   And so it goes.

It feels good when something is convenient, and sometimes convenience is immensely helpful to the accomplishment of a larger goal.  Like most things, though, convenience can be overdone.  In excess, it does not empower us; it effectively weakens us, leaving us less able to do the things which we have abandoned to our convenience.  There is strength in being able to chop firewood, wash dishes, cook, write, figure in our heads, read and understand deep material, have legible penmanship, grow our food, know something about our health and healing, create our own entertainment, talk in person with one another – the list can go on and on.  When those strengths are taken from us by various means to provide our convenience, we are in fact disempowered.  Sadly, such is the attraction of convenience that most of us are unaware that we have been disempowered.

We are at a time in history when change is happening more quickly and more drastically than before, creating chaos around it.    It is most certainly inconvenient.  If we have been permeated by the expectation of convenience, we will be effectively edged out of the conversation about change by blindly following whatever ideas seem to be the most convenient.  Not all those convenient changes lead to the best ends, but if we have been desensitized to this concept, we will be unaware.  Sometimes the energy of going through inconvenience – whether physical or the effort of thinking deeply – is the energy taking us to the places we need to be.  The inconvenient efforts of adapting to climate change is a large example of this, but the same pattern applies to more personal and individual changes as well. 

Let us form the habit of questioning our convenience.   Is the easiest way really the best way to guide our affairs?  Sometimes it is.  It is needful, though, to recognize when it is not.  If we wish to retain the power of guiding our own lives and influencing the grander changes around us, we must not give primary importance to convenience.  Let us not allow enshrined convenience to blind us when change comes knocking at the door.  We need our awareness and discretion.

Peace, Diane