The Stress of Everday Life Redux

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b8/Tension_belt.jpg/500px-Tension_belt.jpg

Much ink and electronically generated language have been expended commenting on the oppressive and stressful nature of everyday life. We are expected to move too fast, produce instant answers to complex problems, and respond with a fax or an e-mail or a text on the spot.

Many of us travel long distances just to get to work. We hardly know our neighbors and, even if we do, don’t have the time to talk to them. Each of us has his own individualized shipping container (called a car), further separating us from each other.

We relate to gadgets more than to people — voice mail and snail mail need answering, internet sites demand surfing, our phones are always on and in our pockets — even vacations don’t place us out of reach of urgent demands and obligations.

Teacher conferences require our attendance. Our children plead for our time and a car ride to assist them in their own over-scheduled lives, already buckling under the demands of metropolitan living. The house needs minding, the lawn needs mowing — there is never any rest.

We have gone from a time 50 years ago when only doctors were “on call” to one where 12-year-olds can be electronically summoned at any moment. The machines we built to assist us have started to take us over, like the “Cylons” in the science fiction future of Battlestar Galactica.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Cylon_Centurion_head.jpg

Witness this commentary:

I cannot help but regret that I did not live fifty or a hundred years sooner. Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them, and our arrivals and departures are no longer matters for emotional debauches — they are too common. Similarly, we have too many friends to have any friendships, too many books to know any of them well; and the quality of our impressions gives way to the quantity, so that life begins to seem like a movie, with hundreds of kaleidoscopic scenes flashing on and off our field of perception — gone before we have time to consider them.

I should like to have lived in the days when a visit was a matter of months, when political and social problems were regarded from simple standpoints called “liberal” and “conservative,” when foreign countries were still foreign, when a vast part of the world always bore the glamour of the great unknown, when there were still wars worth fighting and gods worth worshipping.

These words were written by George Kennan, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, diplomat, and scholar.

Yesterday, you ask?

No.

They were written 85 years ago in his journal, on December 20, 1927 when he was 23. They can be found in his book, Sketches From a Life, published by Pantheon.

The top image is Tension Belt by LeonWeber. The lower photo is the head of a Cylon Centurion by ckroberts61. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons. This essay is a slightly revised version of one I posted a couple of years ago.

3 thoughts on “The Stress of Everday Life Redux

  1. I look back on my life, not so long ago, when my children were young – I remember thinking, “I can’t get any busier than this.” But I would love to go back – it would be a relief, it would be less busy than I am now. I jokingly say I shouldn’t tempt Fate by saying, “I can’t get any busier” – cause Fate will just laugh and prove to me that I can.
    No wonder books about living a simpler life are so popular. If we can find the courage to do so!

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  2. Great article! Thanks.
    Your description of busyness: “We are expected to move too fast, produce instant answers to complex problems, and respond with a fax or an e-mail or a text on the spot.” reminds me of a blog I wrote called “Spinning Plates on Sticks”: http://awakeningcenter.blogspot.com/2009/11/spinning-plates-on-sticks.html

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    • Loved your “spinning plates” metaphor, but somehow the computer didn’t permit me to leave a comment. A couple of thoughts. First, that the world will go on pretty nicely without most of us; meaning that most of what we think to be important really doesn’t matter that much in the big picture, including those spinning plates. Secondly, many great musicians decide (as they age) to drop pieces from their repertoire, leaving only those compositions that mean the most to them. It comes back to mortality issues, the shortness of life, and the need to make the best possible use of the time.

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