Life in the modern western world is good. I would argue too good. We are at the point in technology where almost everyone can take out their phone and enjoy endless streams of entertainment, all while taking a brief break to have food delivered to their front door. Not sure that’s what those Sci-Fi movies had in mind for the year 2020 🙂
However, as our lives get easier and easier, something peculiar happens…we get weaker. There are studies showing that grip strength (a major marker of strength and recovery) has been declining over at least the past 30 years.
I am going to make the argument that progress is neutral. Some could make an argument that it is good, and some could make just as convincing an argument that it is bad. But if you really think about it, it’s neither. Let’s look at two very good examples…
Food and Movement
Let’s take a mental trip back in time. Back to, say, 1900. I’m no historian, but I would estimate that the majority of Americans were doing some sort of manual work. We worked outside, we walked, we did laundry by hand, tended our gardens, and built with our own hands.
We were also eating meals at home or at restaurants in our communities, stocked with plant and animal foods that we could all pronounce the names of. I don’t think there were 7-11’s selling sodas and ice cream (not that that would have been a problem as you’ll see).
Fast forward to 2019. We mostly do sedentary work. Innovation, automation, and technology has almost (and will soon) removed the necessity for people to do any manual labor at all. Food is plentiful and readily available. Famine is a relic of our distant past. Life is good! Is that a good thing? Yes. Could it also be a bad thing? Yes.
The Gym and Fasting/Calorie Restriction
Napoleon Hill, a success author, has a very famous quote; “Every adversity contains within it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit”. I would posit that “Every benefit contains within it the seed of an equivalent or greater difficulty”.
What happened to us when we became sedentary and over-fed? Over-fatness and chronic diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Now I’m not arguing that these things have a direct one-to-one relationship to our change in lifestyle, but the correlation is rather alarming. When your calorie expenditure goes down (from sedentary living) and your caloric intake goes up (from availability of food), you will begin to gain weight, and with that extra weight comes a greatly increased risk of chronic disease.
But we humans are smart…so we are learning to adapt. Now we interrupt our sedentary lives with trips to the gym and walks on our lunch breaks. We lift weights to make sure we have good bone density and strength. We run 5k’s to keep our hearts healthy and engage in unfortunately fewer opportunities for social interaction. We track what we eat and make sure not to eat too much.
All of the remedies mentioned above are self-imposed discomfort. It feels better (if only momentarily) to lay around and watch TV than go to the gym. It feels better to eat whatever we want whenever we want than to pay attention to what we eat.
Whenever our lives get better and easier, we have to find ways to induce balance back into our lives, or “too much of a good thing” begins to harm us.
It is a personal prediction of mine that as the need for traditional work dwindles away, we will need to find ways to challenge our minds in productive ways. I think this could take place in the increase of interest in hobbies (learning instruments, crafts, art, any creative endeavor really).
As I have said in other articles, it is all about balance. Whenever our lives get easier, we have to find ways to self-impose discipline and restraint in order to continue leading a happy life.
Until next time…