Monday, May 10, 2010
The Stresses of Modern Life
In recent articles, I've reflected on the way humans treat each other in our modern era, competing for resources, attention and priority.
I turn 48 this month and even in my lifetime, I've seen major changes in the nature and quality of life. A few observations:
*When I was in college, faxes, FedEx, and email did not exist. Fast communication meant a land line phone call.
*The pace of each day was limited by the number of in person encounters you could have.
*Real estate was relatively inexpensive and houses in places like Marin County and Palo Alto could be found for $150,000.
*Debt was something to avoid.
*When I was growing up, a McDonald's meal cost a dollar and consisted of a small hamburger, 4 oz of fries, and 8 ounces of Coke with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. It was under 500 calories.
*Doctors were respected members of the community. Lawsuits were rare.
*There was no expectation that you'd have a car, a VCR, a flat screen TV and an iPod. You spent what you could afford and accepted the fact that you lived within your means.
*No one had peanut allergies
*People took responsibility and accountability for their actions. If you chose to bathe with a toaster and died, your family would not sue for the toaster manufacturer for making an unsafe product.
*Government was a safety net for truly critical emergencies, not day to day life.
I realize that the items above are filtered through the haze of imperfect 40 year old memories.
However, I really do believe that something has happened in modern society that makes each day distinctly different from my childhood experience in the 1960's.
*Instant communication means that anyone can email the CEO and demand immediate action for their personal projects.
*Someone else is always to blame to everything that goes wrong.
*A baseline quality of life includes much more than in the past and if you cannot afford it, credit cards can provide it for you.
*Stress is a badge of courage.
*Information overload is the accepted norm.
When I was an undergraduate at Stanford, Herb Caen wrote many columns about the changes that took place in the 20th century that reduced the quality of life from his perspective... food, culture, and human interaction.
I hope that at some point, modern society stops and reflects about the nature of our day to day lives and realizes that we need to rethink our priorities i.e.
*Replace reality TV with a good book
*Treat your fellow humans with humility and respect
*Stop the real time communication with everyone you know
*Treat meals as an experience not as refueling
*Understand that this is the only life we have and we should savor it, not be stressed by it
After a recent particularly difficult day, I asked my wife if Ted Kaczynski's Montana Cabin was still available. Of course, as I age access to medical care will be important and cabin life would be a bit challenging, but the concept of wilderness life without an internet connection is intriguing!
No matter how challenging the stresses of modern life, as long as I remember that for everything there is a process, there will always be a path forward.
Posted by John Halamka at 3:00 AM