Dear Eleanor and Wesley,
We are incredibly lucky to live in the place and point in history that we do. I do not have a hard time making this argument. I am bit amazed that the argument even exists. However, there is always someone willing to inflate the evils of any particular moment. The passionate plea for the return to a simpler time resurfaces over and over again. I am rarely swayed and here are three simple examples about why.
I have recently finished consuming 110 episodes of the hilarious TV show Parks and Recreation. Due to the wonders of modern technology, we saved over 1000 minutes, or almost 19 hours, of our lives by streaming online and skipping the commercials. 19 hours is an amazing chunk of life to have given back to you, especially considering it would have been full of overloud commercials screaming for attention.
I have recently listened to music new to me from four different decades of recorded history in four different locations with no more intention than the whim of my mood and a tap of the screen. The wonders of modern techonology have put the stylings of almost every popular recording artist in any genre in the history of recorded music into my pocket. You name it, Spotify will give me a listen. Simply amazing. Certainly beats spending a small fortune on an inevitably limited selection of records, cassettes, or cds.
I have recently become an amateur dryer repair technician in 15 mins. A week later I was a washer repair technician in 10. Shortly thereafter, I became an expert on the film career of the great Bill Murray. I feel like I am 15 seconds from knowing Kung Fu. The internet is an information system efficient beyond our wildest dreams. It’s implications are endless and largely unexplored. Also, I can finally find out the answers to all of my pointless burning questions.
These developments are an awesome improvement on things that were awful in the past. Watching hours of unavoidable commercials five minutes at a time in the middle of our programs was terrible. Listening to the same music over and over with your horizons only as large as your wallet was a travesty. Spending hours to fix your own dryer, only to have to spend hundreds on a repair guy anyways was the worst. Time, technology, and change has made all of these things infinitely better.
You’ll hear plenty of old people decry the developments of the day for all of the horrible things it is doing to the next generation. They just won’t get it. I bet there will be points where I just don’t get it. Here’s the deal though, you won’t either. Every one of these changes also comes with a wicked side effect. Take my extra 19 hours. You know what I’ll be tempted to fill it with… binge watching the other 19 TV shows I’m pushed to keep up with. The dark underbelly of infinite Spotify access means it’s almost impossible to get paid as a musician. The endless amount of activity on the information superhighway turns out to be mostly cat pictures and dumb selfies. No development is exempt.
Reality is that change is both awesome and awful. We humans have a relentless drive to make new things that make life better. However, we also end up creating new avenues to make life worse. Turns out that the past has a few things worth looking at. How do we figure it all out? An incredibly boring concept called discernment. Stop taking in everything that your moment feeds you. Learn to ask questions and think, “Sure I can do this, but do I really want to?” or try this one, “Is it worth it?” Look at the past and ask “How can I get the best of both worlds?” Even an ounce of reflection is worth the time. I know I could use a little more of it, and odds are you could too.