I was reading an article recently that discussed how many people want what they want but have little curiosity about how what they want is created. Although that is a huge generalization, it made we wonder about some of the costs to ourselves of our fast, highly mechanized society.
The High Cost Of Machines
I think it is degrading to treat people as just consumers like children waiting for candy every day. It marginalizes us and keeps us dependent. This dependency suggests that we have lost our ability to take care of our needs. Perhaps we have. We have machines that take care of many mundane tasks to that we do not have to. We have schools that prepare us to live primarily as consumers. We are now used to the “freedom” to go to the store when we need something.
Should the status quo change do we have schools that teach us how to survive and thrive on our own? What do we do that requires patience, perseverance and resilience? Are we are so reliant on machines that we have surrendered important part of our personal development?
The Benefit Of Mundane Tasks
Mundane tasks are wonderful for our development. Whether it is cleaning our house, tackling some routine maintenance, weeding a garden or cooking a meal, these daily tasks help us engage in productive ways with our lives. They teach us to pay attention, to stick with the task even if it is not particularly enjoyable, to handle the minor mistakes that we make, and to participate in the process of getting something done. It feels good to engage in our own lives.
Mundane tasks also do something else – they teach us tolerance.
They teach us to tolerate the unpleasant, the boring, the mistakes, the inconvenience the surprises and disappointments.
The Gifts Of Tolerance
What gifts does tolerance bring us?
- enables us to become strong through struggle. An obvious example is how a bird hatches from its egg after a struggle to break out. Only when its strength is adequate does it emerge. We have to tolerate our weakness as we grow strong, the weakness of other people in our lives and challenges that comes with strength. We also have to tolerate that what may be a strength today may be a weakness tomorrow as we and the world change.
- helps us become wise. We are each a jumble of desires, impulses and energies that we need to learn how to channel wisely. We have to tolerate our mistakes and disappointments in order to learn how to make wise decisions. We have to tolerate false starts, blind alleys, and wrong directions to learn how to make our way in the world.
- enables us to see into the heart of a situation or another person. It is our own tolerance for our struggles that enables us to look kindly on other people and their challenges. It is our tolerance for ambiguity that lets us be with our thoughts and feelings as difficult as they can be sometimes to be fully aware of the present reality of a person or situation.
- guides us through the trial and error process of learning. We cannot know in advance. Too often I hear the expression that someone “should have known…”. Nonsense! We are not omniscient. Where the demand or expectation comes from I do not know. As a species we are often intolerant of the not knowing of things. However, if I look out into nature, I do not see a tree worried about not knowing. It just is a tree and that is fine. Do you see birds scratching their heads because they do not know? They don’t; they get on with the business of being a bird. We have to tolerate our not knowing and when we do it becomes easier to persevere.
Tolerance has an open heart to reality. It does not have a list of demands. It is a gentle way of being in the world.
Tolerance lets us be vulnerable and in a state of wonder. When we surrender to our not knowing we let more of the world in, can learn from the rest of the universe and in doing so become wiser.
We have become deskilled and had our wings clipped by a mechanized society. We can become intolerant because we are so used to having so much available to us. If we allow that to occur, we are losing important parts of ourselves. It is unfortunate that in trying to lift ourselves up we may have created our impoverishment.