Spiritual Reflections

The Illusion Called Convenience

10:00pm
Washed my plastic food containers, carefully scrubbing oft-neglected spots where grime accumulate. Left on table overnight to dry.

7:00am
Check if the leftover viand is still on the ref, checks if someone cooked rice. Starts preparing packed lunch.
12:00nn
Joins the queue for the microwave oven inside the office pantry. I barely know these people (and they're all female), so I just stare at the ceiling or something until it's my turn.

12:10nn
Finally, time to eat.

12:15nn
Where did my lunch go? Anyway, time to wash my stuff.

12:25nn
Starts thinking, "I should buy a bigger lunch box."

• • •

For a long time, I’ve been too used to eating at the food stalls near our office building. It was convenient: I didn’t have to prepare anything, I didn’t have to wash anything afterwards, I didn’t have to bring stuff from and to home, it didn’t cost too much, and the only effort required was joining the cramped lunchtime elevator traffic. And since I haven’t gotten sick from the meals, I guess the food was clean and healthy enough.

So why bother with packed lunches, other than saving a few pesos?

We live in a world and generation of convenience. Instant coffee. Instant communication. Instant food. Instant access. Instant results. Everything can be obtained and shared in an instant— for a mere trivial price. And what a sweet deal! Just for a few pesos or centavos, you save time and effort: no need to grind your coffee beans, or steep your water to enjoy a hot beverage. Contacting friends and family is so easy; from telephone lines to SMS to social media, talking to someone can be done effortlessly. Hungry? No need to store up food in your room! Just walk to the nearest 24-hour fastfood, the local burger stand, or even the available convenience store. Accessing information is almost basic among students— just a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks, and et voila! Academic grades, student information, school bulletins, and other announcements are readily found on their respective institutional websites. What’s more: they can even just use their smart phones to find out!

We live in the dream world of our predecessors — one from which we need to wake up from. And soon.

What is convenience? Is it really a practical solution to maximize our ever-fleeting resource called time in this busy world? Or has it merely become a sad excuse for our laziness?

Surely, not all that is convenient is wrong; medical breakthroughs that allow good health to be more convenient is truly remarkable. Safety devices have also helped a lot of people, warning and protecting them from harm to some extent. And yes, improved communication has been indispensable in a lot of critical situations— particularly, emergency cases where one’s life hangs on the balance. Softwares with convenient features make productivity and creativity even more attainable.

But take a look at ourselves: what will you do when all these convenient items are suddenly unavailable? We rant and complain about utility problems like electricity and water, yet we remain at the mercy of the distributors— because it’s more convenient to continue depending on their services. We criticize the government and leaders for failed expectations, yet we keep electing the same kind of people because they’re more convenient than risking some unknown people to make undesirable changes. We decry the unbalanced number of professions and salaries, yet we ourselves know too well how strong the lure of good salary and compensations are.

We are instinctively drawn to convenience, not because it is always better — but because often times, the better choice relatively requires too much from us. Yet convenience can be an illusion. It is only convenient for the now, the today. And that is not truly convenient at all. No, the real inconvenience lies in our twisted perspective of convenience — when we trade what matters more for what’s simply more. When we corrupt the meaning of convenience into a pathetic alibi hiding beneath a shallow facade of practicality.

Like ordering pizza for dinner instead of actually cooking a decent, healthy meal.

Like taking a jeepney ride for what you can simply walk in 5 to 10 minutes.

Like simply posting a message online rather than give a card, write a letter, or personally greet someone.

Like searching up on Google a Bible verse instead of laboring through the pages.

Like spending happy moments with friends more than building lasting memories with your own family.

Like settling for a mere romantic fling or disposable relationship rather than commit to an imperfect lifetime promise.

Like living each day aimlessly without worries— instead of living each moment with a disciplined purpose, with a strict yet hopeful future.

No matter how much technology progresses, life can’t be more convenient than how God already created it to be. Because no matter how many steps we create to make things simpler, or how many bridges we build to connect people, or how many beautiful ideas we share for this world to shine a bit brighter, there’s only one way for us to truly live conveniently— to live with each other harmoniously and peacefully, with God’s love and mercy. Because let’s face it: At the end of the day, the entire point of convenience is for us to really enjoy this God-given life and one another.

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