Convenience is the Enemy of Doing

You will not find an electric can opener in my home. It’s not because I have a particular hatred of electric can openers. It’s because that small gesture is a constant reminder that doing the work of life is not a bad thing.

I am not against technology or improvements in productivity or modern advancements. I do believe, however, that the trajectory of most innovation in the world is towards more thinking and less doing. While in and of itself this is not a bad thing, it is a dangerous thing.

The basic goal of almost all advancement in convenience is to save us time. The question is really what are we going to do with more time? Are we going to use it to do more or think more? Sometimes I feel as if every new development is taking away the doing and allowing more time for thinking. Convenience has become the enemy of doing.

I have to remind myself everyday that mindfully doing the small everyday tasks of life are more beneficial to my mental health than taking the convenience route and getting them over with so I can think more about everything else.

Doing the “Work of Life”

I first heard the term work of life while watching the Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel in 2012. Kevin Costner (‘Devil’ Anse Hatfield) made reference to the work of life in talking about getting back to basics of everyday living during the war between the feuding families. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to the phrase but it’s kind of stuck in my mind.

What exactly is the work of life? If you Google the phrase you won’t find much in the way of discussion about it. I simply take it to mean all of the daily tasks and chores we must perform in order to simply survive. Things like cooking, cleaning, maintaining our homes, etc. Of course, the types of things included in the work of life in the 1800s is dramatically different than the work of life in the 2000s.

The reason this is relevant to my philosophy of life is pretty simple. Modern day conveniences are slowly removing the need to do the work of life. In times past the work of life was difficult and time consuming but at the end of the day we felt peace and fulfillment over a job well done. With each passing year improvements in technology and advancements in convenience are creating a world where we have to do less and think more. That may sound great on the surface but is it really?