Dying for Convenience

I received a disheartening piece of mail today. It’s a brochure advertising a 55+ facility nearby that boasts services including:

  • Meal preparation
  • House cleaning 
  • On-site convenience store
  • An activity room
  • Well-appointed grounds 
  • Hair styling services
  • Scheduled transportation to shopping centres

Of course, along with the promise of taking all the inconvenience and work out of life come the glossy pictures of what looks like healthy, vibrant fifty-five to seventy-year-olds enjoying said amenities.

It immediately made me think of the Axion, the spaceship featured in the Pixar motion picture Wall-E. Axiom is the “best ship in the line” of space-bound cruise ships manufactured and operated by the Big n’ Large (BNL) corporation. In selling its wares, BNL boasts the high level of care-free convenience associated with its services—using healthy and fit models to do so.

Sound familiar?

Of course, reality is never like the brochures. What I see when I look at many advertized conveniences is what we lose by succumbing to the marketing message:

  • The potential to maintain or improve our health and level of physical fitness
  • The satisfaction we feel when we get something done, even the small stuff
  • The state of flow we enter when we work on something that demands attention
  • The feeling of accomplishment when we complete a difficult task
  • The sense of purpose we experience when we do something for others as well as ourselves
  • The sense of community associated with working together on tasks, such as community gardening, cooking large meals, chopping and stacking wood, building a home, organizing events

How much sitting around and “relaxing” can anyone take? Try spending six months playing Canastas and what might at first have looked like the perfect solution to living the good life turns out to feel pretty boring. We can start to feel pretty lost. Pretty useless.

It's like sitting around waiting for our number to come up as opposed to making the most of the journey!

Passengers living on the Axiom offer a view into the future for those who are dying for the type of convenience found in these 55+ brochures. They’re immobile blobs who’ve come to depend on the ship's services not only for convenience, but for survival. Every service is offered at the touch of a button and few of the passengers even seem capable of independent thought.

The passengers may exist, but one could hardly say they’re really living. Unfortunately, we see evidence that we're moving in that direction every day (segue anyone?).. That's not my idea of a future I want to "enjoy".

Convenience Is Killing Us

[T]he Baby Boom generation is the first in centuries that has actually turned out to be less healthy than their parents, thanks largely to diabetes, poor diet, and general physical laziness. The percentage of women who said they never engaged in physical activity has tripled since 1994, from 19% to nearly 60%. Younger generations are faring even worse, succumbing to obesity at ever younger ages, particularly women between 19 and 39.
— p. 28, Spring Chicken by Bill Gifford

It’s time for the convenience pendulum to reverse course. Modern conveniences are literally killing us. We drive everywhere, buy fast food, read sound bites instead of books or full length documentaries, order products and services at the click of a button and have them delivered to our door…We're increasingly outsourcing our life. 

As a part-time coach, I see the deleterious effects of seeking convenience every day. I see obesity, frailty, weakness, laziness, boredom, fickle interests, impatience, displaced anger, frustration at the slightest delay and an increasing questioning of the purpose of doing anything for the mere sake of enjoying the "doing" and not just the end result.

Hedonic adaptation isn't confined to income or status. It also applies to increasing creature comforts and lack of physical discomfort and/or mental challenge. Given this fact, maybe calling it the "hedonic treadmill" is even more à propos.

Use It Or Lose It

The lack of mental and physical effort many of us expend on a day-to-day basis is making us lazy and weak in both mind and body. And it’s robbing us of our right to a feel of content.

Despite what the latest “healthcare” and "freedom" commercials will tell you, the solution to the problem isn't likely to be found by taking a pill or by whipping out the plastic, including the purchase of anything motorized. 

Honestly, Aunt Ruth, I don’t know how you and Alex do it. I’m forty...whatever and look at me. [Trying to catch her breath.] Jesus. I have to join a gym!
— Lilly (Real Estate Agent), Five Flights Up, as she comes up the last of the five flights of stairs to the retired couple's apartment

We need to protect our most important asset: our health and the solution is to “do stuff”, even what we consider the "hard" stuff. To truly live a satisfying life, we need to see conveniences as treats, not as the norm to everyday life. That's what makes the rest of our day—and the rest of our days—sweeter.

Just like Alex and Ruth in the movie "5 Flights Up", we need to do things that are hard, not easy and we need to do that often.

We also need to feel what it feels like to accomplish something difficult. We need to expand our mental and physial comfort zones. We need to use all aspects of our talent and we need to do so as long as our physical and mental selves allow. Because that is the best way we know how to feel truly ALIVE!

We’re not meant to merely exist. We’re meant to thrive.

Would you like fries with that?

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