Erik Crosier is thankful for the speed with which we can connect, thanks to modern technology.
I grew up in the country not far outside the nearest city. There was a small convenience store down the road—which bore the loving moniker of The Little Store—but for the needs beyond gasoline or a loaf of bread, we had to go to the city. As a kid I used to bemoan this trip and considered it an injustice that we had to drive fifteen minutes for groceries when those who lived in the city could drive down the road to get theirs. It seemed like a travesty at the time, but looking back on it now, I realize how truly lucky I was to be able to have the benefits of the city within minutes and yet live in the peace of the country.
Historically, you might say that for those who loved the countryside and the wilderness, there has always been something of a choice: does one want the country or does one want the benefits of the city? However in recent times, this decision has become all but non-existent. Beginning in the late 18th century, the Industrial Revolution brought us wonderful new machines like trains and automobiles and eventually airplanes that could suddenly transport us at rates of speed once unheard of. With the infrastructure that was soon developed, distances were suddenly viewed in an entirely new way.
There are Golden rules that transcend all ideologies. Be kind to others. Connect with nature. Have patience. Be forgiving. One of these golden rules that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my own life more is that of thankfulness.
I look back to the whining I did as a kid regarding the horror of having to travel so long for groceries. The trip to the store was a straight shot on the highway, fifty-five miles-per-hour the whole way. Think about that—we can now travel fifty-five miles in a single hour! That “inconvenient” fifteen-minute trip I bellyached about would’ve taken an entire day in not so many years past. This advance has allowed those who enjoy a country lifestyle to be nearly as connected as those living directly in the city.
Over time, technology has cleaved us ever more tightly. Like transportation, electronic communications have continued to increase the connectivity of ideas and thought. I teach online; anywhere I can get some signal, I can do my work. That’s pretty cool.
I say all this not to act like we’re living in a perfect Golden Age, as there are certainly reasons to complain—ever greater disparity between rich and poor, for instance, and over-reliance on technology—but rather to emphasize the fact that there is much in all of our lives for which we can all be thankful. People seem to have a natural inclination toward complaint but I think the world might be a bit happier of a place if we learned to be more thankful.
Consider the sheer amount of time people have been civilized, in relation to the technologies mentioned above. If we regard true civilization as having begun concurrently in a few different places roughly 6,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution as having begun about two hundred years ago, then humanity has only been living with these conveniences for about three percent of its history. We are truly lucky indeed!
Despite being still relatively young, I often feel like a relic in the world around me, like I’m living in some sort of Orwellian nightmare I don’t understand. But when I get to feeling like this, I try to remember all of the benefits I have in this world: family, friends, the ability to teach from anywhere, or travel 55 miles per hour. I try to be thankful.
It’s easy to lose perspective. Just as we kick our cell phones for dropping reception, I’m sure Og the caveman living in the pre-civilized world kicked the pile of sticks when they wouldn’t light. But maybe both we and Og should be happy for the advances we have. Both cell phones and fire are worthy of our gratitude.
Image credit: Bytemarks/Flickr