Of the many things I've written to date in the first 7 months of existence of this blog and website, one that seems to keep coming to mind is this phenomenon ingrained in our culture known as "instant gratification." One of the reasons why it resonates deeply in my soul is a result of the recent elections held in our country. It was only two short years ago that our current Commander-in-Chief was hailed as our savior but, because he and his party didn't deliver NOW, it's time for a change. And already, after only two short weeks since the election, I'm already hearing and reading its back to business as usual amongst our leaders of every party. It's really quite sad when you think about it and a poor reflection on us as individuals and our world. Beyond that however, it is a phenomenon that's deeply rooted in our society, which affects nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives. With the explosion of the information age, the ease with which we can stay "connected" with mediums like facebook, cell phones, etc., it has attained an identity of its own. One that can never be changed and one that causes a lot of concern for me. Our lives have become so deeply intertwined that it leads to confusion, fear, and frustration. Recently, I had a conversation about this subject with my 86 year old Aunt, a woman who served as a public school teacher for several decades. She described it perfectly and succinctly; "We have to learn to be comfortable with confusion." I liked that!
Everyone knows what the term means and how it affects their lives. I'm sure we all have stories we can share, especially about how our children have grown up with this way of life and the impact it has on ourselves and our society. For example, recently a couple of my facebook friends noted that they felt a sense of loss when their computers and/or internet went "down." I myself recall a similar time when I was in banking. One day, about 4 years ago, our computers were completely "off-line." We had no internet connection at all for the entire day. I remember our customers were calling for balances on their accounts and, since we had become completely automated by that time, we literally had no way to tell them. It was humbling and frankly, a little embarrassing. After all, if it had been only 10 years prior, we still had all of their information we could look up on microfiche or in that most novel content of all, PAPER.
Instant gratification though manifests itself in ways less subtle. For example, when I moved back to California from Kansas this past March, I remarked to my sister one day about the traffic conditions. I told her, "Why is everyone is such a big hurry?" I remember describing the freeway and side street traffic this way, "I gotta shoot the gap so I can hurry up and wait with everyone else." San Diego County especially is well known nation-wide as being an area of notorious tailgaters. So, what did I do? Simple, when the traffic was bumper-to-bumper I slowed, rolled the window down, hung my arm out, turned up the radio, and RELAXED. I did that for a long time and the funny thing I discovered was I got to my destination about the same time as all those other "gap-shooters" and tailgaters. HOWEVER, I've recently discovered something about myself and it's not one I like at all. I've started doing the VERY SAME thing everyone else is; darting in and out of lanes, crowding the guy in front of me, and so forth. The result? I've forgotten what I first observed when I came here. I'm not getting to my destination any sooner than I was before but my stress level and aggravation has increased. Not a healthy way to live.
Instant gratification robs us; or rather we ALLOW it to rob us, of the simple and important things in life. For those of you who have ever experienced a complete loss of power in your home or business, you'll know what it feels like to experience that "disconnect." And I'm not talking about a few minutes; try a whole DAY or, better yet, SEVERAL days! It's moments like those when we come to appreciate what life is truly about; slowing down, smelling the flowers, listening to the sounds of nature, talking with your neighbor, enjoying a sunrise or sunset, feeling the warmth of a loved one nestled in your arms. THOSE are the moments to remember. In the simplest terms, instant gratification robs us of our senses; the ability to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.
As I write this, the thought also occurs to me about my "senses" and the appreciation I have for them. Part of it was where I was born and raised. As a boy growing up on a farm in a small town in Kansas, I came to know and understand the importance of staying in tune with nature. The unique smell of the air in front of an approaching storm, the taste and feel of grain when it is ripe for harvesting, and of course there was something else. The loss of life. Even though it's been over 38 years, I remember vividly the sight and sound of when that truck rolled slowly out of sight behind that hill. Only days later, she was gone. Gone as the result of a horrific and tragic auto accident. Lost to me and my family in a physical "sense" forever, but she remains embedded in my soul. I miss her at times but I take great comfort and strength in knowing she, my Mom, is with me now in spirit. The other part, of course, is what my own actions robbed me of as an adult nearly 2 ½ years ago. Waking up every day for 158 straight days KNOWING that your ENTIRE world consists of 270 square feet of concrete and steel you're occupying with strangers changes a person. LIFE is precious friends. Don't let the "instant gratification" today's world offers you rob you of that simple concept.
So a resolution is in order. I challenge each one of you who has read this, to take the time each day and every day to turn off your television, your computer, your cell phone, your stereo, your iPod, your whatever that gives you "instant gratification", and RELAX quietly. Go outside, look up into the sky, listen to the sounds of nature, smell the grass or the flowers or simply the air around you, feel the warmth of the one you love next to you, and breathe in deeply the beauty and the taste of LIFE. The one God intended for us to have.