Friday, 28 May 2010

Just Add Water

A while ago I heard about this clever company that came up with a new pancake mix in the 1940's. All you had to do was add water and hey presto .. pancakes. Now being an enthusiastic cook, the thought knits my brow. "Water? what else is in there?". But I understood the convenience and of course the company thought that they had hit on culinary alchemy. Somehow when it came to the sales launch, shoppers stayed away. People (or in those days, women) found it too easy, too strange and alien. So a clever duck in the company changed the recipe, now you had to water and ... an egg. Sales shot up at a blistering pace. They didn't understand it but were pleased, the mix was finally off their sorry hands and into those of the fairer sex.

What they forgot to tap into at the beginning, was reality as seen and known by people at that time: Nothing is that easy, some work goes into achieving anything worthwhile. Which makes me think of the world we live in today. Everything is at our tiptap fingertips. We may lament about the declining economy, petrol prices and finding the right shampoo - but on the whole, we've noticed that those who do complain, are hardly the ones lying in the street or counting loose change under a streetlamp.

Yet while we we have so much more materially - the fear is always driven into us that we have nothing, not really. That life is not as it should be. The spouse is not quite perfect enough or psychic enough to anticipate each and every need. The job is too stressful. Time is far too fleeting. The last one is the only one I agree with: Pardon me for my absence.

During all this fear-mongering, the "counter message" we get to balance this out is: More. That's their answer. As if by just adding more (water) we will be gifted with an instant life. A life other than the one we borrow. I use "borrow" here, because that is how it is. We don't keep life forever; we are entrusted with one for a short while: Why then are we so determined to remain dissatisfied with this gift?

I feel as if people are bombarded by their own side sometimes. Good, intelligent people are buying into the idea that they are not quite capable, because they are unhappy - and they are being sold that idea by OTHER human beings. An endless spiral of enabling - the drug is "This is not good enough and neither are you".

Perhaps they are right to be unhappy! Or dissatisfied. It's good to know when something needs fixing. The only harm occurs when they barely scratch the surface of why there is discontent; when they use the outer life: appearance, career and status as the passage to contentment. The truth is, all those things only equal a material life - which no matter how much you improve upon will never bring true fulfillment.

Deep down we know this, yet we still forget. The other messages are too prevalent. Why? Happy, fulfilled people are rarely voracious consumers, it helps profit margins to keep us in a state of constant need. I don't think that those who enable this process truly mean harm - but let's face it, they are partly responsible. Though not completely.
The greatest opportunity and thus the greatest test lies with us. Taking responsibility for why we are and what we value is not the easiest thing. Sometimes it can strike like a lightening bolt - when reality forces us to see beneath the veneer. Most of the time, it takes work, real hard introspective work. We actually have to sit down in a quiet spot and think. Shut away the world and all the images dangled before us. Just sit and think and ask every question we have avoided or neglected. Remember our question mark? It comes in very useful during those tender, worthwhile moments. This life is so precious and it floats by in the blink of an eye; I hope we can give it the time and thought it deserves, soon and often. Throw out the pancake mix. Start from scratch.