A letter to my children.
Convenience Is Killing Us
In today’s fast-paced American life, convenience is factored into just about everything we do. Be it queuing up to a coffee shop, having shirts dry-cleaned, or hiring a lawn maintenance, people simply don’t have enough time in a day to do all that is necessary to manage a home and family. It is decidedly hard living in this digital, 24/7, gotta-have-it-right-now 21st century. We have resorted to leaning on others, outsourcing the nagging little parts of our lives so that we may enjoy the bonus extra time of not having to do a single thing.
That convenience may be costing you.
By not mowing the grass or trimming the hedges, taking the elevator or escalator instead of the stairs, or even driving our car up the street rather than walking, our species has stopped moving and walking. We are getting fatter, sicker, trading our busy-ness for the convenience of lazy-ness.
Take the stairs when you can.
You’ll burn some calories and
perhaps even live longer.
There are hidden consequences to any decision not to do a thing your own self. The packaging that came with your take-out was specifically designed to be used once and thrown into the waste bin — for your convenience. Even when this toxic plastic is recycled, the cost to do it so high that many facilities won’t even take it. It may be nice not to cook and clean occasionally, but dining out or taking food home is keeping the Styrofoam industry alive and kicking. Eating at home is better, but if you must dine out, be ready.
Plan ahead before dining out.
Keep clean, reusable containers
with you for leftovers, and
only drink from reusable glasses.
Carry out and dispose of your recyclables.
When enjoying a convenience of any kind, ask yourself if there is a trade-off to others that is not being directly seen. It’s okay to be inconvenienced when not doing so causes harm to others or creates negative consequences to the environment. Work that inconvenience into the regular workings of your life and you’ll find that it’s not such a bad thing.
Courtesy is Contagious
One of the most difficult lessons we teach as parents is courtesy for others. By ‘others’ we typically mean other humans. Holding a door open or helping a stranger to carry something heavy would seem like a no-brainer, but these expectations must be taught to children. Courtesy is not an inherent trait like running away from a predator or chasing down a potential mate. A simple ‘thank you’ or ‘yes ma’am’ burns few brain calories in a civilized society, but these words of courtesy and respect go a long way toward building relationships within the tribe.
Be kind to everyone,
all the time, even when they
don’t deserve your time or respect.
When away from home and out on the road, there is a whole other courtesy to be considered. For safety, we may use indicator signals (or not, if you’re from Texas) to let others know we’re coming into their lane. To be nice and help traffic flow, we may wave someone into traffic in front of us from a merging lane. It’s the nice thing to do, and if we all did it, blood pressure would be steady for all and traffic would move better.
Don’t be angry and never shoot the finger.
Wave and smile, especially when you
don’t want to.
Courtesy is rarely extended to those that aren’t most like us. Watching a turtle get rolled by the undercarriage of a car as it drives over it (rather than around it) is difficult to watch. It would be courteous to simply give the full passing lane around it, much like we would do a child on a bike, but — better — stopping safely to help her off the road to where she wants to go takes more effort. Not only would a life be saved but future traffic could be spared the gore. It only takes a minute.
Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road.
Slow down or stop for turtles.
And children on bikes.
In some ways, it’s easier for children to be courteous to non-humans. It’s in your very core to not see others suffer unnecessarily; we parents worked hard during your upbringing to train all that out of you, for some reason. Connecting you to purposeful courtesies involving other species is a sure-fire way to assure you will care more for your own as well. Sure, squishing a bug is easy, but is it necessary?
When you’re compassionate to spiders,
compassion comes easy for all the others.
It takes work to be courteous, precious brain work to see the larger scale of how our actions affect others as we go about our business every day. Don’t be afraid to think ahead.
Maybe You Didn’t Pay, But It Cost Someone, Something
There are costs paid to every action we take, every move we make. Some of these are known, but many of the costs are unknown. Asking questions and finding answers to uncover the ‘true cost’ estimate is really the best way. It takes work. Whatever you do, don’t rely on the industry who sells it to you or the government that regulates it make these facts readily available; they have no real incentive to, so they probably won’t.
Don’t entrust others to think for you,
or you’ll get what they want.
When the cost is removed entirely from the direct consumer it becomes very appealing. Just because a thing is ‘free’ to you doesn’t mean that someone else — or some thing like the environment — isn’t getting hit with the cost that you (the consumer) should be paying. Sometimes, the cost hits you later, but that’s another thing entirely. When others put in for your free-to-you product, costs are unchecked by the market because the end consumer isn’t demanding a better deal.
Nothing in life is free.
Don’t ride on the backs of others,
especially if they don’t want you to.
Environmental costs are almost always not seen in the short term. It can take years for ‘experts’ to realize when something’s happening, much less what the causes are (which can take longer). By then no one wants to give up his ‘freedom’ at having gotten to enjoy ‘that thing’ for so long; he will not give easily give it up. When the data changes and general scientific consensus that something needs to change, start looking for other options now, and be ready for anything when all bets are off.
Don’t get used to status quo.
Be flexible and ready for a different world.
Change is coming, like it or not.
The hardest part about convenience in America is that our government is built upon it, always kicking the can down the road to perpetuate the political system. Don’t believe me? Wait until you’re old enough for Medicare. The pressure will be on you to take your ‘free’ handout, but be mindful that any cost is being paid by millions of others.
The Pleasure Principle
The world finds pleasure in food. For millennia, it has tied people to memories, regions and experiences. It does this when the brain releases endorphin, same as a drag of a cigarette or the hit of a crack pipe. Like many traits, pleasure (with food) can also be trained.
It may be convenient to pull out a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner, but the unseen costs to produce (process) it are rarely considered by the consumer. Look more closely at the foods that might stock your pantry, read the labels to discover who’s actually in there. Your convenience is very often traded for another suffering — with no laws currently in place to protect them. The food industry regularly relies on ‘others’ to keep their products cheap. The animals-for-food industry works hard to keep you from seeing into the cages or behind the slaughterhouse walls.
Thank you for being vegan.
Continue to read labels to avoid
animal ingredients like eggs,
casein, whey, or milk (all dairy).
I can think of dozens of life pleasures that don’t involve food. Find them. Use them. Enjoy them. Don’t be a slave to your taste bud or it will take you over like an addiction that can’t be easily managed. When you eat whole foods, the pleasure finds you. Your body will reward you for good eating habits by being nice to you and not making you sick.
Don’t become a food addict.
When you’re hungry, eat veggies.
When you’re thirsty, drink water.
Few think of what goes into the foods we eat, packaging notwithstanding. Being vegan, you already do. When you are offered that Ding-Dong or hot dog at your friend’s house, it’s okay to put off your pleasure for later. You can still have fun with a simple ‘no thank you’ and the impact will be made. For the animals, the costs are too great with no end in sight, no legislation protecting their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (whatever that may be).
Doing your part wherever you can is always the very best you can do. And when you come home, I’ll make you some iced cream (coconut chocolate cream) to reward you for your choices.
Pizza is great convenience food,
made better without cheese or meat.
Pleasure should never be at others’ expense.
Don’t just not be the assassin; don’t pay the assassin.