Everything can be seen as a message if I pay attention – not necessarily a profound philosophical or spiritual message, but simply a common hint and teaching from the animate Cosmos in which I live.
Our electric coffee pot that is supposed to have an “off” switch has started to boil over if left unattended. Do we toss it and buy a new and better one? Or perhaps we are learning that we don’t need to push a button and quickly go on to something else for the sake of convenience. Leave the lid open. Pay attention. When it begins to boil, shut it off. “A watched pot never boils over.” (The original of that old saying.)
Humanity’s pursuit of convenience seems to have led to a diminishing of our ability to pay attention. Our ancestors were, by necessity, attentive to the environment and therefore were constantly learning what it had to teach them. Every convenience we have gained in the past 10,000 years has a price tag attached. Some, perhaps, are worth the price. However many are purchased with yet another decrease in the bank account of attention, mindfulness, and awareness. The completely convenient life, I think, would be a life of complete inattention to natural processes and environments.
The original definition of convenient implied, “fitting in well, being useful.” That definition has morphed to become, “time and effort saving,” and from there into, “the ability to accomplish a task with little or no thought or attention.” The question then becomes, “What am I doing instead?” If I have a large family and the large capacity clothes washer allows me to write an assignment, work in the garden, or take my toddler to the playground, then I can make a case for the money spent and the attention refocused. It doesn’t relieve me of the questions like: How long did I have to work to earn the money for the item, which was clearly time spent away from the garden or the playground with my toddler? Did I enjoy the time spent earning the money? And I also have to consider a final question: What do I actually do with the “time saved?” Really?
If we add up all the so-called conveniences, we find that they have somehow become necessities that we are working full time to afford. Surprise, they have now become even more of a necessity. And somehow they keep needing to be replaced, repaired, or kept company by some other new convenience. We are now trapped on the economic treadmill – working full time in order to buy the conveniences that enable us to work full time so we can afford the conveniences so that we can…
I don’t have any real solid answers that would fit everyone’s life. I am only raising the classic questions of, “What? Why? and How?” that I have spent so many decades ignoring. Freedom, simplicity, and Joy also comes with a price tag. As conveniences slip from being necessary, my condition mind shouts, “Inconvenient!” But the deeper awareness and joy of simple moments spent noticing real events is well worth the price.