The Inconvenient Truth
My eldest daughter called last night. She's out west in Washington at a camp north of Seattle training for an internship. Before she left we checked online to see what type of facilities were at the camp. It looked beautiful, and the cabins appeared rather modern. When she arrived there, she discovered her "cabin" was just a very small lean-to. And to add to the discomfort, there was no electricity.
I haven't heard much from her on a daily basis. There is the problem of the time difference, there is also very poor cellular reception, and she is working twelve hours a day. When I finally got to hear her voice, I realized that I hadn't heard her that happy in a long time. She said that she couldn't understand or explain it. Here she is sleeping in a shack with no walls; it's cold and raining most of the time; she's with a bunch of strangers; and she's working long, hard days -- yet she has no stress, she is sleeping wonderfully, and she is content.
When my daughter left for the trip, she left behind all the modern conveniences of her daily life. At the same time she left behind a ridiculously hectic pace of living, and a society that focuses on self-gratification at any cost.
She went from activity to activity, job to job, state to state seeking something that would help her to feel a sense of purpose. Yet all of the modern conveniences, the excessive privileges, and indulgent activities left her feeling anxious, even angry, and quite unfulfilled. Now she is back to the basics of living -- less than basic one might argue -- and she is stress-free and content.
I've experienced what my daughter is experiencing even if to a lesser degree. I've been without power for a few hours, forgot my cell phone at home for an entire day, or perhaps been without a car for a few days. Somehow those experiences are always kind of freeing. I am forced to slow down, simplify, and make the best of the moment. I seem to have the innate ability to make something out of nothing -- to find light in the darkness (when without power) -- to create warmth -- to keep busy and productive -- even without technology. And somehow I instinctively know that I am not created to live in this complex environment.
My spiritual director once told me that we are "human beings becoming."
Modernity seems to convince us that we are human beings becoming wiser and savvier, but at the same time we are left feeling rather unengaged with ourselves and our world. It's all not natural, and we are of the natural world. I think we just need to be human beings becoming human beings again.
Perhaps the trick is to use our modern conveniences at our own convenience -- to control them so they don't control us. And to routinely remove ourselves from the busyness and enter a place of simplicity and nature. I think we'll discover that we can be human beings becoming truly aware, alive, and whole again -- without feeling inconvenienced at all.
The following was written by my daughter while away at the camp:
It's crazy how fast you get used to things. Two more nights and I won't be able to fall asleep to a banjo, guitar, and a medley of voices singing folk songs into the cool night air. I won't hear the rain falling steadily onto the roof of my tiny, open-air cabin that I share with three girls I met only a week ago. I won't wake up with the sun (if we're lucky) extending its morning rays like arms through moss-covered trees. I won't grab my towel from an overhanging beam and tread to the communal bathroom to take a shower that's never completely warm but tolerable enough to jump in, scrub, and jump out. I won't arrive at every meal to the same faces, smells (some not too great), and chaotic clamor for coffee in an attempt to grab some before it's all gone. I won't go to sleep curled in the fetal position, wearing two pairs of socks and sleeping bag pulled completely over my head in an attempt to keep out the cold as the temperature dips below 40. I will have my own room, privacy, electricity, doors, windows, heat, air conditioning, a fridge, my car, grocery stores, freedom to come and go anywhere, anytime, a computer with internet, and an entire closet in place of a duffel bag. I'll be able to join a gym, drink a beer, go to a movie, make phone calls, straighten my hair, wear heels, and sleep in a bed with two memory foam pillows and 300 thread count sheets. Somehow it just doesn't seem like a fair trade.
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