Affluence is a blessing but it is also a curse. It brings better health, greater material pleasure, and the opportunity to aid those less fortunate. While perhaps it is true that money will not buy happiness, you can purchase so many distractions you may not realize you are miserable. At least for a while.
Our society is not just monetarily well off, it has a wealth of solutions to our everyday challenges. In the last two hundred years, we have seen so many inventions that have made our lives easier it seems there is an answer for every problem.
For most of human history if you had a headache there was no remedy. Then in the early 19th century, the compound that would become aspirin was isolated. Today we have a plethora of painkillers.
It was around that same time that train travel began. Previously, you journeyed no faster than a fleet horse or swift ship, awfully slow by today’s standard of almost universally available jet travel. Rapid communication, also taken for granted today due to ubiquitous cell phones, dates from about the mid 19th century.
Herein lies the curse. As ever more weighty problems are solved, we grow ever more accustomed to this being the way things work. We expect life to be, if not pain-free, forthcoming of a solution. So, when we face an intractable challenge it impacts us more deeply. We refuse to resign ourselves to reality.
Technology can overcome many things – human emotion is not one of them.
Prolonged unhappiness results. For example, many of the young sailors with whom I was deployed were unhappy that they did not have continuous Internet or telephone access. During the periods of unavailability, about 15% or 20% of the time we were at sea, their morale plummeted. Interestingly, submariners, who have no connectivity while deployed have much better morale.
Reality is that expecting there to be a solution for every problem is far more likely to cause unhappiness. Be grateful for the convenience of modern life but be prepared to meet life’s challenges with the understanding that a lot of the time there will be no easy solution.
Here is the key to mental fitness: accept life as it comes, even as you strive to improve your situation.
Question – What are the challenges you think we will always face?
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