Have we got it too good?

In anticipation of reading aloud various books to E4, I have been reading them myself first to see if they will be suitable for her. I am so enjoying reading these ‘childrens’ books. Some I remember from my own childhood, and some I’m reading for the first time.

I’ve recently read Matilda by Roald Dahl, Charlotte’s Web by E B White and The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I LOVED The Little House on the Prairie. I found myself reading bits of it aloud to D, and for me that’s always a good indicator of a book that I love or which has impacted me. D tolerates my cries ‘Oh, listen to this …’ and patiently waits while I read. Sometimes he quite enjoys it too, and other times he’s clearly bored. Poor thing.

What I loved about this book was the way it made me think about how we live. I so enjoyed learning a little about pioneer life (American) and it made me long for the simplicity of that life too. Strange really, those longings it brought out of me…I honestly can’t see myself ever dashing off to the outback with a horse and a wagon and an axe and gun and fending for myself like they did. Why was I so attracted to that lifestyle?

The heroine Laura’s family lived very simple lives, with few material possessions. They set off into unknown territory to make a new life for themselves. This required them to have the skills to source their own food and water, build shelter and protect themselves from dangers. The didn’t have much, and so it meant that when they had luxuries it really was a special treat.

Sometimes I think that we have so much in our lives, nothing is special anymore. We eat well, a varied diet with plenty of luxury foods. We have entertainment aplenty, easy transport, running water. We don’t have to struggle for the necessities of life. What our parents or grandparents would have considered luxuries are now considered commonplace or ‘must haves’. But are we really better off?

I often wonder why we are so busy when we have washing machines to wash our clothes, dishwashers to wash our dishes, cars to get us to places quickly, computers to communicate faster and supposedly more effectively etc. Surely all our conveniences should create more leisure time. And yet, we often don’t spend time together as a family just talking. I have heaps of ‘friends’ and people I email from time to time, and even virtual friends who I keep in ‘relationship’ by reading and writing in the most public forum…the internet. (Am I the only one who thinks there is something strangely artificial about that?) And yet few really close friends with whom I can spend a long time in easy company.

And how can you compare the delight of receiving a long hand written letter from far away, with a quickly typed electronic message on your screen? This is probably another post altogether, but don’t you miss the days of writing and receiving letters? It’s a dying art and I’m feeling inspired to keep it alive.

Anyway, I know others have written on this subject. I think I might just give it some thought and try to recapture some of the simplicity of life; the essence of truly living, and living well.

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4 thoughts on “Have we got it too good?

  1. I feel similarly about virtually everything you wrote. This past summer, we spent a few days in a cabin, all six of us in a one-bedroom “house”… It really got me thinking (as that sort of thing always does) about what is really required to live.

    I get overwhelmed with city life so easily; I often think that I’d really do better in some hut on stilts in the jungle somewhere, where life is much more stripped down to essentials.

    Sort of OT, but we just finished Charlotte’s Web, and then watched the recent live-action movie, comparing what was faithfully reproduced from the book, and what was changed.

  2. Karen, you know what… I think some of the freedom we feel and enjoy on holiday isn’t just because we’re away from work, but because we are free from all our STUFF~!
    I haven’t seen Charlotte’s Web movie, although E4 has at a kids event. I was a little disappointed she’d seen it before we read the book because I think her imagination was limited by the images she’d already seen.

    Dana, you’re so right…I sure they worked hard for a better life, but we do that too?! So it seems we’re all striving for something and think that it comes in material things. I’m starting to think the ideal we’re after is more to do with the true joys of life like rich relationships, and quality time.

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