18 July 2016

A Bit at a Time

One of the things that gets me kind of sad when I work with young people is the way that they feel they have to do things very quickly, and perfectly. We've created an environment for them in which they don't feel comfortable taking their time, in which they feel tremendous pressure to do things fast. They don't want to work for a week on the project--they want it done now. This is a problem that has been around for some people for quite a long time, but one that seems to be getting increasingly worse as pretty much everything in our society becomes faster, from finding information on the Internet to cooking meals in the microwave to having printers at home that can print almost anything almost immediately--remember typewriters and type setters?

This is sad to me in one part because these young people--just as many of their elders--are not learning about process.  They aren't learning about taking the time to do things well, and to let some things happen slowly because that's the best way to have them happen. There are some dishes that we can cook, for example, that take a lot of time because different parts of them take time to prepare. I like making stew, for example, because there are several different parts to the process that all take a bit of time to prepare, but in the end you have a very delicious dinner to eat. When I make a pumpkin pie out of real pumpkin, the pumpkin has to be cooked first, and then the rest of the process can be done. It's not like taking a premade frozen pie out of a box and throwing it in the oven, or buying the completed pie in the bakery section of the supermarket. The process of making it over time gives us not just an extremely tasty pie, but also the sense of accomplishment that comes from taking on a task and seeing it through to the end.

I'm writing a book right now, and I'm working on it about an hour or an hour and a half a day. I don't need it done tomorrow, and by following this process I'm allowing a lot of ideas to develop and grow in my mind. Of course, I have to be true to the schedule--if I stop spending the allotted time on it each day, it will never be finished, of course. But I know from experience that if I set aside an entire week of just writing, all day every day, the book won't get done at all. For me, it's very important to take my time and to pay attention to the process of writing, rather than trying to get it all done in the shortest possible amount of time.

I wish we could teach young people better about processes. I wish we still taught them how to cook good meals instead of ripping open packets and throwing things into the microwave. I wish we taught them how to tear apart engines and put them back together. I wish we taught them about taking our time to make and be friends rather than expecting new people to be our friends immediately. As a teacher, I notice that the young people who have grown up on farms or ranches have a huge advantage in today's world, for they've learned about processes and cycles and patience from day one--after all, you can't make a crop grow any faster and you can't make an animal deliver a baby any quicker. They tend to be much more likely to understand the processes involved in almost anything they do, from reading to writing to mathematics to business, and they're much more likely to be patient when things take their time to reach the point we want them to reach.

Be patient. Recognize that the things of this world work in their time, and that our attempts as human beings to speed things up generally haven't made us happier or healthier (with the obvious exception of many advances in the medical field). The more closely we observe and appreciate the processes of life, the more patient we become, and the more in tune with our planet and the things on it we grow.

Quotes and passages on patience

05 July 2016

Learning of Value

I saw something a bit disturbing last week.  I had to stop at a drugstore to pick something up, and while there I saw a kid about thirteen years up buy a Monster drink, about 24 ounces of caffeine fix.  That in itself saddened me, to think that this very young kid has been seduced by marketers and peers to think that a caffeine fix is a positive thing in life.  I was shocked, though, to see the price affixed to the can:  $3.49.  This kid was spending more on one drink than anyone making minimum wage earns in half an hour of work--and I feel taken when I have to pay $1.19 for a large soda at a gas station when I'm traveling.  I couldn't help but think that this kid never had been taught of the value of money, and of the concept of exchanging the money for something of comparable value.

I see this principal all over as I go through my day.  I see rims on car wheels that cost upwards of $500, just for a little bit of decoration on a vehicle.  I see people spend four or five dollars for a cup of coffee, hundreds of dollars for cell phones that they almost never use, thousands of dollars on huge television sets that they almost never watch.  All around us are ads and commercials that keep us wanting to buy things, that keep us dissatisfied with the way things are, and those ads and commercials are trying to convince us that if we just buy some more stuff--no matter what the cost--we'll be happier and more content.

But somewhere along the line we have to learn to make our own decisions about value.  There's a common law of economics that states that many poor people will stay poor because of the decisions that they make about how to spend their money.  How many people have you known or known of, for example, who have little money yet who buy a very expensive car with high monthly payments?  And how many people are in trouble right now because they bought houses that were more expensive than they could afford?

While I wouldn't say that the answer to our money issues would be to skimp and save every penny and never have any fun in life, it is important that we learn about value and about when to spend how much.  A few years ago, for example, my wife and I had cell phones.  At the time I worked half an hour from home, I was on the road with sports teams a lot, and my wife also was on the road quite a bit.  The cell phones made sense, even though we didn't use them much--at least we knew that if anything happened, we could contact one another.  (This was in the days when we still had a landline at home.)

Then we moved someplace where we didn't need the phones any more, for we both worked close to one another and we weren't on the road much.  Suddenly, the $75 every month to keep the phones made no sense, so we got rid of them.  They were now just a luxury item, no longer as necessary as they were before.  They simply didn't have the same value that they had had before.  And even though it had been quite convenient to make an occasional phone call from wherever I happened to be, that convenience was no longer worth the amount of money we would have had to pay to maintain it.

It's unfortunate that money is such a huge part of our lives, and that it affects our lives so very strongly.  But that's the way things are, so the best that we can do is learn to define the value of our money for ourselves and to exchange our money for goods and services that have equal or even greater value.  While a woman I know who is broke can go out and spend almost a hundred dollars on a new hairdo, I know that she really can't afford it, and that its value is not nearly as much as she thinks it is.  When my wife and I go on vacation in a few weeks and spend $400 for three nights in a hotel room in Yosemite National Park, though--which is much more than we've ever spent on a hotel room before--we both have considered the cost, the location, and the reasons for our vacation, and we both agree that there is great value in the price that we'll pay.

Money is here, and it's a part of our lives.  We can live with it and have it work for us, or we can squander it and lose it and become angry and frustrated with our loss.  The choice is ours, but one thing is for sure--the path to happiness doesn't lie in exchanging our money for goods or services of little value; rather, we need to make sure that the money we spend is money well spent.  Only then can we avoid the resentment and frustration that will come over having wasted money when we didn't need to.