I was speaking with a friend of mine this morning about ancient civilizations. We were talking about the hard labor that they had to endure in making a life. “We are spoiled,” he said. I agree that we are spoiled in some ways. We don’t have to endure the physical hardships that many of our ancestors had to endure. The physical dangers, heavy lifting and constant environmental pressures took a toll on their lives and shortened their lifespans. That being said, we could say they were ‘spoiled’ because they only had to worry about their lives, and they don’t have to endure the constant onslaught of worry and stress that comes with living in a highly populated world.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but I love the scripture about the lilies not having to worry about what they are going to wear tomorrow (Matthew 6:28). That scripture illustrates how we are created. God did not make us physically or emotionally capable of worrying about tomorrow. Our bodies are wired to take care of the present – not obsess over the past or worry about the future. The people of yesterday were much better able to live in the present. They didn’t hear about global warming, the terrorists that are progressively increasing and the crime in their neighborhood. While they had to deal with the stresses of physical labor, our world has to endure the stresses of emotional overload.
Yesterday, I wrote about how those images on Facebook stick in my mind long after I saw them. Right before I fell asleep last night, that image with the terrorist and the severed heads flashed through my mind. I was able to let it go, but sometimes it’s not that easy. There’s another image of a dog with holes punched in his neck from being chained up with a pinch collar that will not let go of me. Someone else had posted that on Facebook. Every time those images flash through my mind, I have an emotional reaction. I worry about dogs that are being abused. I worry about people that are getting killed. I feel deep sadness for animals in situations that they can’t control. I worry about my own animals being at home all day while I’m at work. Are they lonely? Do they hate their lives? Most of the time I can let it go after a second, but it makes me sick for just a moment or two if not more. We know too much. We see too much. We fear too much. These are the things that shorten our lifespans and make us sick.
I plan to go camping next week. One of the reasons I love camping is that I’m not assaulted with the daily images of things that I have to worry about. Like our early ancestors my days will be absorbed by making meals, creating a sub-standard place to sleep, and moving around under my own steam. I won’t get very far. I will be uncomfortable. I will have to deal with flies, mosquitoes and ticks. I will have to wash all of my dishes, carry my stuff to a shower that is not in the next room and go into town to buy ice to keep food cold. It will be a hassle, but I will be in the present. I will be able to appreciate the sights and sounds of songbirds, owls, raccoons, deer and, yes – even snakes. I will be like the lily and not worry about what I’m wearing tomorrow. It’s a practice that I love because it’s so difficult to do in our modern world.
It is this constant onslaught of news and information that causes the constant stress that we have. Our bodies were designed to deal with physical stress. We run, or we fight. Our bodies cannot run from emotional stress. I’m afraid of being assaulted because I just heard about a rape in Baton Rouge, but I can’t fight it. I can’t run from it either. It’s just there, percolating in my mind. When I sit in traffic, worry about money or hear about scary things, science says that my body ramps up for fight or flight. But, I can’t do either, and I can’t make the stressor go away because it’s not a predator. So, I’m caught in a web of fears that – in all honesty – I can’t do anything about anyway. Just because I know about crime … or abuse in other lands … or animal abuse …. or the state of the economy … or the young people who will never be able to interact socially because of technology … or the price of gas …. doesn’t mean that I have any control over it. So, it is constant, and my body is constantly reacting to the onslaught. People tell me all the time that I need to be more informed and watch the news. I quit watching the news for health reasons. I already have an anxiety disorder. For the same reason, I don’t enjoy violent or scary movies. Those scenes keep popping up in my head at times when I want to unwind.
That bible verse about the lilies helps me to remember that I’m not designed to carry the troubles of the world. Since I have an anxiety disorder, it’s not that easy for me to let go. It’s sort of like the dog with a bone. If he won’t – or can’t – let it go when you want him to, don’t give it to him in the first place. I have to set boundaries on the things that make me worry incessantly. There is very little I can control. But I can control what comes into my sphere to some extent. I can stay away from toxic people. I can work out and take care of my health. I can control what movies I see. I can take time to slow down and enjoy nature. I can eliminate the drama and stress that I cause myself by not taking care of me, overextending myself and not minding my own business. It’s all about eliminating the outside influences that destroy my emotional and physical well-being. Are we spoiled? I don’t know. What I wouldn’t give to get up this morning and have to carry water … chop wood … start a fire for the wood stove … instead of fighting traffic, staring at a computer and pay bills. Hmmm… spoiled??? I don’t really feel spoiled. I think it might be a toss up. What do you think?