There is a popular conception in the New Age community that time is actually speeding up in some way and that's why the whole world seems to be in a rush and some people are freaking out. There is also a popular perception in the Mainstream community that life is getting more intense and stressful and some people are getting ill or going crazy because of it. In both communities there are people who long for for simplicity, meaning more time to relax and enjoy life. So what's really going on and what can be done about it?
As a young boy I lived in the residential area of a big city. My equivalent of a computer and TV was comic books and movies, but I still spent a lot of time outdoors playing with friends. I went through several illnesses that I now know were related to stress, but it was internal stress, not external. Life had a pretty easy pace. I went to school, took piano lessons that I hated because the teacher rapped my fingers when I played a wrong note, played with my friends after school, had dinner and went to bed. On the weekends I mostly played also, except for the few chores I had to do. In the summer I played a lot, and as I grew older I found or created jobs to earn a little money to buy candy with. Life was pretty easy, pretty simple.
As a teenager I lived on a farm in conditions that were as simple as those in a third world country. We were short on money, food and clothing, and I often held two or three jobs at a time, but there still seemed to be a lot of time for fun and games and socializing. I could hardly call high school stressful because I hardly did anything there, although there were the normal emotional stresses of teenage life. College was stressful because I had to work my way through, but there was still plenty of time to play. The Marine Corps was stressful because of its very nature, but I still had a lot of time for myself and I don't ever recall feeling overwhelmed by life itself.
In fact, I never had that feeling all through the rest of college, or through marriage and raising children, or through seven years in Africa, or through the whole decade of the seventies and most of the way through the eighties. There were tough times, sure, but there was always time for travel, for having breakfast on the beach, for taking long walks through the woods, for visiting with friends. In spite of commuting from Kauai to the Mainland practically every weekend for several years I really don't recall any sense of life pressure until the nineties.
So what was different then? Was the Earth passing through some kind of Cosmic Energy Field that speeded up all our frequencies? Or was television, pollution and the threat of nuclear annihilation causing a breakdown of our minds and bodies? This was worth thinking about, because gradually I found myself working more and more and playing less and less.
So I started thinking about it, and while I was thinking about it a memory popped up that led me to a theory. The memory was of a trip I took with my family across the US from Michigan to California shortly after we returned from Africa for the last time. During the trip we parked our VW van beside a country store in Idaho so that Gloria (my wife) could hop in and get some aluminum foil. We both expected that to take about ten minutes at the most. A half hour later I was worried enough to leave the kids in the van and go looking for her. We didn't have enough money to buy more than aluminum foil, so I knew she wasn't just shopping. When I went into the store I found her standing in front of the shelves where aluminum foil was displayed. She looked like she was in a daze, or a hypnotic trance. On the shelves was more aluminum foil than we had seen in all our seven years overseas. There was foil of different lengths, different widths, different thicknesses, different patterns and different brands. In Dakar, our last post, we would have been lucky to find one box on one shelf. Gloria had been stunned into immobility by the stress of choice. I shook her out of her trance, grabbed a box at random, and got her out of there.
Since the beginning of the nineties the choices we have available for almost everything have increased astoundingly. Technology has played a large part in this excess of possibilities. Where once you could only choose between an IBM AT or an IBM XT, you now have to decide on the processor speed (366MHZ, 400MHZ, 600MHZ, 800MHZ....), the video card, the modem, the graphics card, the monitor, the peripherals, the operating system, the color, a laptop or a desktop model, and the software. Where once your choice of television channels consisted of ABC, CBS, NBC and a few local stations, you can now have your pick of way more than a hundred channels from all over the world. Where you used to get a few letters every weekday you can now get email every hour of every day seven days a week. Where once you went to the local theatre to see a movie on the weekend, some cities now provide you with half a dozen multiplex cinemas within a block or two of each other, some with twenty-four movies to choose from.
But technology alone isn't the reason we are inundated with choices. Does the following dialogue sound at all familiar?
Would you like something to drink before your meal?
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Copyright by Aloha International 2001