I listened to this song on the bus home tonight. I realized a few lines of the lyrics captured the culmination of some debate going on inside me about convenience and comfort and what they cost.
standing on the bridge
watch the water passing under-
neath it must have been much harder
when there was no bridge just water
now the world is small
remember how it used to be
with mountains and oceans and winters and rivers and stars...
I live in the country of convenience. We have the fastest Internet; we have the most efficient airport in the world; we have ridiculously affordable health care; we have free shipping with online shopping; we can order food and have it delivered in a park, on the sidewalk, in an alley. And that delivery guy will come back later to pick up your dishes. We live in apartments surrounded by every kind of convenience you can imagine. Korea is saturated with convenience. Everything is done for you. You don't even pump your own gas in this country.
And I will tell you, dang, it's comfortable. I sit around and think about ways I can make my life even more comfortable. And generally, I discover how many things I need to achieve this. I need a better rice cooker so my rice will stay fresh longer and cook faster. I need a car so I can go where I need to go exactly when I like and skip the 10-minute-wait between buses. I need a better computer so I can spend more of my time in front of it. I need cable TV so I can watch programs I have seen before in English. I need a better cell phone so that I can Twitter on the go (because does Twitter really count if you must be tied to your computer and an Internet connection?). I need a personal trainer who will roll my belly out of bed in the mornings and march me to the gym. I need a personal chef (okay, I sort of have this one covered with the HubbO, but still) who will force me to eat things that are good for me while at the same time relieving me of the worry about and proximity with the food I consume. I need a lot of money so I don't have to teach. Because then I could spend all my time on the Internet, and everyone knows how great the Internet is!
And all of those things are fine. I love things. They're great. And I love easy and fast.
But what I don't love is who I become when everything is easy and fast. I don't love how those things prompt me only to consider further what more I need in order to be comfortable.
These things never stir me to create, to commune, to care about the person next to me. These things never allow me to test my patience or my discipline, both things running on empty. I am beginning to be drawn to the simple things in life. And I want to find beauty in waiting on the bus, instead of inconvenience. I want to order my life so that I don't need my rice cooker to keep my rice for 49 hours. And I want to stop seeing only my needs and the things that would make my life easier, instead of discovering the ways I can reach out and embrace a bit of difficulty or complexity. I want to stop complaining about being busy and having no time, and rejoice that I have a community to be a part of and people to care about. I want to work hard and build something for myself instead of ordering it to be done for me and delivered to my door for free.
I never understood why artists and writers always went to the woods or sparsely furnished shacks on the beach. I always wondered why they needed to seclude themselves from everyone else to get their work done. But it's not the people or the place they're running from. It's the things. The convenience and the comfort. Because let's face it; how many times can you site comfort as the great motivator? It's not. It just doesn't move us. It doesn't make us dance. It doesn't help us value vulnerability with each other or even within ourselves.
And we're ruining things with it. I crossed a good number of swinging rope and stone bridges built across small streams and hung across large coursing rivers in the Himalayas. And I was so thankful for those bridges. They held me and led me to places I couldn't have dreamed up. But the bridges are simply not enough. It's not enough that people can walk through the mountains and cross the water with relative ease now. People can't drive their cars through the mountains, and well, that's just annoying, isn't it? So not only do we want bigger and better bridges, we want roads. We want a clearly marked line to follow on the map. We don't want to twist and turn and investigate corners. We want to know where we're going and exactly how many minutes it's going to take us to get there.
Perhaps if I was Nepalese and walked everywhere, I would think differently. Perhaps speaking from the heart of comfort and availability and the opposite of hardship, I find the simplicity of others' lives beautiful. Yet, I have felt that simplicity work within me. I have walked through those mountains, trying to avoid the roads and being thankful for small bridges. I have seen what it is like when there are "mountains and oceans and winters and rivers and stars." And I met myself clearly there. My vision was not blurred by modern gadgets that keep me busy. Because the longer I think about it, the more convenience hides me from myself. Extremely comfortably hidden, actually. I don't have to look inside myself to, to examine myself, to reflect on my character, my choices, my heart. I certainly don't have to consider anyone else in this scheme of the easy life. If it's easy then it's good. If it's difficult, or complex, or fuzzy then it needs some work and someone needs to fix it so I don't have to do that work myself.
But y'all. I still want a car. Really, really bad.