By David Hegg
At the end of a long day I’m usually mentally exhausted and can be found lounging on our family room couch with a television remote in my hand. They are wonderful things, these remotes. How did we ever get along without them? Imagine having to actually get up and manually change a channel or turn up the volume. What an outrage!
But there might be a downside to all this convenience. Will our thumb muscles someday be bigger than our calves? It’s a funny picture, but I wonder if our increasing tendency to live life as passively as possible is actually detrimental. And I’m not just talking about remotes. To mangle some verbiage from Neil Postman, I wonder if we’re “conveniencing ourselves to death.”
In 1985 Postman wrote what turned out to be a groundbreaking book entitled “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” His research demonstrated that our society’s infatuation with the silly and frivolous was sucking serious discourse and analysis down the cultural drain.
As I was flipping through channels in search of something – anything! – to lessen my brain numbness it occurred to me that my behavior was symbolic of everything I am against. There I was, fundamentally passive, while hoping to become meaningfully engaged in something exciting.
By this time you’re wondering how weird this column is going to be. So here’s the deal: We are fast becoming a society of ease, of technological convenience, where accomplishment without effort is foundational to our sense of progress and well-being. From our smart phones and computers to our synced cars and programmable appliances, the world is now manageable with the tips of our fingers. And while this certainly makes life much easier I greatly fear this culture of convenience has had two distinctly adverse consequences.
First, convenience has radically raised our expectations of life. We truly believe everything ought to be easy. Information ought to be at our fingertips. Solutions ought to be found for every problem simply by googling it. Things ought to be done quickly, efficiently, and effortlessly. After all, we landed a man on the moon, and now there’s probably an app for that!
But the problem is life is messy. Things break. People hurt people. Liars lie, cheaters cheat, disappointment, confusion and heartbreak abound. And the hardest thing to understand in a world where convenience is king is that most real problems take honest, persevering effort to solve. Life is an arduous adventure, and those who are unaccustomed to sweat and toil will eventually wind up despondent and without the spiritual stamina to journey on.
And that’s the second consequence. Convenience leads to a fundamental passivity, and where passivity is prized, perseverance is impossible. Perseverance means fighting through rather than ranting and walking out. Perseverance is essential in every area of life from education and career to marriage and parenting. Those addicted to convenience too often capitulate. All around me I see folks giving in, giving up, and running away. Our culture is littered with marriages and families that have been thrown away because they became inconvenient. We want what we want, but we don’t care to work hard and persevere in doing the right things even though they are difficult.
My advice is to remember that the greatest and most important things in life can’t be managed remotely. We have to get in there, stay in there, and engage life with an active determination to do what is right whatever the cost. Unlike the television, change doesn’t come via your fingertips. It takes a courageous heart that has learned through trial that while industry and integrity are difficult to build and maintain, they are both essential to purposeful living.
Now, pass me the remote so I can program my DVR.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.