You have to give up something in order to get something else. The evidence of this is all around us. Building a retirement fund may require postponing a new car, losing weight could mean passing up that piece of cherry pie, and the many joys of becoming a parent involve giving up some freedom. Freedom itself certainly isn’t free. A critical piece of deciding what you really want is understanding what you will need to sacrifice to get it.
Decisions involving calories or money are straightforward. Those that involve job or relationship changes, not so much. The most treacherous choices of all are the ones where the sacrifice is hidden, and our vague sense of loss is obscured by waves of short-lived excitement. Often the sacrifice is involuntary; we are swept along by the inexorable changes in our culture.
As I was growing up, our preferred mode of family travel was the automobile, and vacation always meant a road trip in my Dad’s Buick. I kept up this tradition myself for a number of years before eventually succumbing to the lure of modern jet travel. Trips began with a paper map from a bookstore. I would always pause for a moment before opening it to admire how flat and perfect it looked – it would never be folded the same way again.
The map sat on my lap as I drove. If we got lost, our options were to search for a payphone and call someone for help, or find a gas station to ask for directions. Gas station attendants were mostly friendly, and while pumping gas and washing windows were happy to offer advice on shortcuts that couldn’t be recognized from the map, along with not-to-be missed places to grab a bite to eat. Since you’ll be passing right by Mama’s Diner, you absolutely must have a piece of her world-famous cherry pie.
Bookstores, paper maps, payphones, attendants who pump your gas and most independent diners are a thing of the past. Smart phones, GPS’s and self-serve gas pumps conspire to isolate us from other humans, at least until we pull up to the 3-star chain restaurant that Yelp recommends. In the not-too-distant future, automakers like Mercedes will be chauffeuring our road trips in self-driving cars with swiveling front seats; we will sit around a coffee table conversing with our friends while our travel-capsule delivers us to our destination.
Most of us embrace the idea that technology is probably enhancing our lives. Few would want to return to the days of no GPS, no smartphone and no Internet. Finding and accepting a new piece of technology to make life easier seems like a no-brainer.
But do we really understand what we will be getting in the long run when switching to a new gadget? Will we be truly content and at peace with the sacrifices many years later? Are the changes allowing us to direct our attention to more profound and fruitful things, or have they swept away a part of the human spirit?
Fortunately, that human spirit can be pretty darn stubborn (as an example see mamasdaughtersdiner.com)