We’d be pleasantly surprised these days by a long, newsy letter from a friend. If we have news of anyone — a relative, a friend or a repairman — the communication is short, electronic and direct. It’s usually an abbreviated message: no shades of nuance, no lines to scan, no musing, no pause for thought. Our lives now consist of act and react, turn on a dime.
If we want something, we get in our car and go get it. If what we want is far off, we order it. FedEx expedited delivery will deliver it the next day. And e-mail will provide important papers, right now. In our cars, at the movies, on a hike to the top of Mount McKinley, we are always available — by phone. And long gone are those days when a check written and mailed on a slim account had a few days to clear.
No more are there drowsy days for dreaming whether it’s a boy or a girl. Ultrasound will tell us, right now. Speak and be answered. Ask and be told. Immediately. We now live the non-deferred life; we’ve come to expect the instant reply. Is your blood pressure high? Do you ache? Is your cholesterol beyond limits, your prostate enlarging, your old age showing, you manhood sagging? Are you lonely? Are you scared? Is your significance in our vast galaxy ephemeral? There’s always a solution, most often a pill and your problems are solved.
Much of what ails us in this complex world is complex. And not instantly solved. Most of the indigestion from which we suffer — and it must be massive measured by the money spent touting its remedies — is a reward for our instant, gulping life. A pill only masks a problem, which may be a very serious problem. We must stop gulping.
Have a heartache, a grave loss, a serious decision weighing you down? Do not suffer. There are always friends on the Internet, video games and gossip, outrageous exploits, and lies to distract you, another pill.
Long-term solutions take precious time and thought, patience, foresight. But there’s no quick profit in them. You won’t hear much about them in commercial breaks, or in magazines — or even at the doctor’s or the drugstore. But, not to wholly blame the hucksters, as a culture we are used to asking for and getting the simplest solutions — not sane advice.
While we’re not looking
Most of what will kill us is chronic, working its way with us while we’re not looking, taking its sweet time. By the time we must recognize what ails us, pills don’t help very much. And in the meantime, we’ve squandered our health, our well-being, offering it on the altar of speed in the name of our instant life.
Who has the patience to hear not what to do but what not? What not to breathe, not to eat, not to swallow, what not to think. How many of us can mind the wisdom of moderation, denial, discipline, self-control? Who has the time for the fine print about chemicals, carcinogens and toxins, for sorting out the destructive sound bites and slogans and trivial distractions we’re better off without? In short, how much time and space can we afford to faking care of ourselves? All the time in the world, until the pills are useless, and the quick fix isn’t quick enough.
Barbara DeMille lives in Rensselaerville