Frustration infuriates, but when everything just works as desired, where’s the growth?


Photo by Arden, Flickr

One of nowadays’ biggest insults, the source of so many “First World Problems” – and at the same time, a thing that holds us back from living realistically and better – is the incapacity to accept inconvenience. Things not going according to plan, not functioning as advertised, not delivering on their promises… Of course, we know that it will not all be as shiny and trouble-free as the commercials suggest, but we still tend to feel almost personally insulted, and react like spoiled children, when something offers resistance.

At the same time, we easily become aware of just how much our own bodies and minds – we ourselves – are not nearly as controlled by our conscious minds as we’d like. We know we should be eating less and exercising more, and still can’t resist having too much food around. We want to learn and be active, but still end up telling ourselves we’ll do that tomorrow while plonking down in front of the TV.
Probably, that’s one of the reasons why some people nowadays let themselves go so much, and why others are looking for a posthuman future in which the weak flesh is augmented or even replaced by technology: As long as you don’t ask for something outside its bounds, your iPad will give you just what you want – and if not, you can kvetch and blame the programmers rather than yourself.

Go out into the world, though, and its resistance to individual desire starts. “I wanted to go out and exercise, but, sheesh, now it’s raining.”

Modern times’ electronic gadgets are especially good at that. You just want to quickly turn on the computer, download a book to read on the way, enter some data – and the same device that is supposed to make it all more efficient, fast, and convenient is wont to hang, helpfully try to autocorrect the data to something you did not and do not want to enter, start syncing or updating in some unwanted process that makes it all take longer (or stop) doing what you wanted it to do.

First World Problems they may be, but it’s our current reality. And when those gadgets work as they should, their effect is only the more insidious: We can contact all our friends at the push of a button, but forget even our own telephone numbers. GPS gives a sense of knowing exactly where we need to go, but we are not the ones who know and, all too often, not even watching where we’re going.

In spite of all the downsides, even with the spate of “first world problems,” the techno-ideology remains that we are becoming all-powerful. Mark Lynas, changed from eco-warrior to “science” zealot, talks of us as “The God Species“… but we are the sorcerer’s apprentice, at best. We tend to not even understand a fundamental aspect of our being in this world, the need for a resisting world to work in and with, that Nicholas Carr describes so well in The Atlantic:

“One of the most remarkable things about us is also one of the easiest to overlook: each time we collide with the real, we deepen our understanding of the world and become more fully a part of it. While we’re wrestling with a difficult task, we may be motivated by an anticipation of the ends of our labor, but it’s the work itself—the means—that makes us who we are.”

We are looking for a good life, but getting sidetracked into convenience. The better life is hidden right in front of our eyes, in the struggle and challenge that is not comfortable and easy, but life in all its diversity.

Shall we get up and explore?