Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. Earlier this month I wrote a column about how we look for fast ways to meeting our wants and forego good stewardship in the process. I didn’t get a chance to put it up on the blog at the time, so I thought I’d put it up now to chew on over the holidays!
I’m addicted to Diet Pepsi. I don’t drink a lot of it: usually only a can a day, and I make myself wait until 11:30 before popping it open. But that urge hits me by 10:45.
I turn to Diet Pepsi because I’m not a coffee person. Nevertheless, I’m a big fan of caffeine. And so I drink Diet Pepsi, knowing that caffeine and aspartame are bad for me, because I figure the pick me up outweighs the potential dangers.
I know what I need to do: I need to sleep more so I don’t need the caffeine. That, however, requires effort. And so I turn to the quick fix.
We live in a quick fix society. We spend money on lottery tickets rather than investing in our RRSPs on the hope that we can turn ten dollars into one million. Sexually we turn to pornography and erotica for instant gratification, rather than doing the hard work of communication, commitment, and vulnerability that relationships entail.
We buy freezer meals rather than cooking. We pull into the Tim Horton’s drive thru rather than brewing our own coffee. We click the “Like” button on Facebook to show our solidarity rather than picking up the phone and calling a friend.
Perhaps the reason we chase after leisure and ease so much is because it seems attainable. Take, for instance, the food we eat. Today we choose food based on “what do I feel like eating?”, rather than “what is left in the pantry?” We have it easy. When your family had to raise everything that you ate, you couldn’t afford to waste anything.
That’s why unlike the prevailing opinion that most of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare, I think most of it was based on necessity. “Hmmm, we have nothing left except the sheep intestines and bladder. Wonder what we could do with those?” This quest to eat stuff up explains fruitcake, too. Our ancestors had all this dried fruit they had to do something with, so they put it in a cake to make it slightly more palatable. Now that we have chocolate cheesecake, though, fruitcake no longer serves any useful purpose.
While we may gladly bid adieu to fruitcake, though, I fear we are guilty of tossing aside some of the good things that our culture used to understand. We believe, for instance, that hard work was once a means to success and leisure. Now that success and leisure may be garnered without as much hard work, then hard work is no longer necessary.
Yet what if hard work was not just a means to an end, but was actually an end in and of itself? After all, look at the people who have achieved mega success in our culture with very little work. How many of the reality TV stars who grace our magazine covers are content with their lives? After reading of detox centres and breakups and affairs, it’s hard to believe that they have achieved real joy.
Hard work, on the other hand, gave people purpose, satisfaction, and a sense of empowerment. It may be the antithesis of our quick fix society, but it should not be abandoned. The character that was built by working hard and then reaping the reward built the very culture that our quick fixes are now tearing down.
I know we can’t go backwards, and I’m too rooted in this culture to do so anyway. As soon as I’m finished this column, I’ll reach into the fridge and pull out another Diet Pepsi. But there’s still a part of me that says, “there is a better way”. I hope we never stop hearing that little voice urging us to higher things.
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