For example, we can fly almost anywhere in the world and experience exotic places firsthand. And because it’s possible and because lots of average people do it, we feel that we should be able to do it too.
But modernity, or “progress” for that matter, is a very mixed blessing, certainly from a spiritual perspective. Much of progress involves speed, being able to do things more quickly. While that may indeed be a more efficient use of time, it makes us less aware because you can’t be aware when you are running around all the time. And if we’re not aware, we’re not present, and are subject to all the suffering caused by the activity of our thinking mind.
And what has flying become? We have put ourselves in a situation analogous to animals in a factory farm. We are squeezed together in tight, poorly-ventilated spaces for long periods of time as we fly through the air at hundreds of miles an hour. When we pass through several time zones in such rapid order, we arrive with our bodies totally unprepared for day before us ... the common experience of jet lag.
There are two factors here. First, even before the drudgery of post-9/11 security, the experience of flying as a mass transportation was a spiritually and physically deadening one. Our bodies are not meant to be put through such a wringer. And when the world moves by so quickly, we lose the ability to experience anything in the present ... it’s all a blur.
I couldn’t put it better than the words from George F. Kennan’s recently published memoirs. “Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them, ... too many friends to know any of them well, and the quality of our impressions gives way to the quantity, so that life begins to seem like a movie, with hundreds of kaleidoscopic scenes flashing on and off our field of perception, gone before we have time to consider them.”
Indeed we seek this rapid pace in the movies we watch as well. The most popular films are action-packed, fast moving. The movie that is slow and savors the subtle aspects of life is doomed to low ticket sales, if it’s able to be made at all.
It we wish to lead a spiritual life and walk the path, one of the choices we can make is ... at least where it is practically feasible ... to walk away from modernity. We must return to a simpler, slower, way of life so that we have the opportunity to be aware and experience things as they are meant to be experienced.
For example, there’s even a huge difference between driving at 60 miles an hour (5 over the limit) and driving at 45 miles an hour (10 under). Try it and see how the body and mind react positively to the slower, less stressful pace.
Think about the real choices you have in life. Don’t just follow the well-trodden, heavily marketed, path before you like a lemming following his peers off a cliff.