Saturday, August 30, 2008

Instant Gratification

We live in a time when patience seems to be going the way of the dinosaurs. Nowadays, people rarely have to wait for anything. With the click of a button you can make a purchase, pay a bill, send a note and read its reply. Cable television and the Internet mean that research can be done without leaving your seat and that there is never a shortage of mindless entertainment.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for advancements in technology, but there's something to be said for the slowdown of the good old days. Back when a journey from A to B only happened by horse-drawn carriage or a voyage over sea, waiting was a fact of life, and the pace of that life was much less frenetic than it is today. More recently, I remember what it was like to hope that today's post contained a letter from home, one with news in it that was two to three weeks old by the time I'd torn it open and read the handwritten pages. It saddens me to think that my son may never write a "real" letter or even know what a stamp looks like. This is why it feels like Christmas when a parcel arrives from his godmothers in Finland and Edinburgh.

While I love the convenience of online bills payment and rejoice that email makes keeping in touch with my overseas friends so much easier, shopping is still more of a pleasure when I can see, smell or try on the item before paying for it. Sitting in traffic still drives me crazy, as does waiting in line at the supermarket checkout counter, but maybe that's because I've gotten used to life's frenetic pace, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Studies done in the 1960s with children and marshmallows indicate that those with higher levels of patience seem to turn out better off than those who without. Looking at my sleeping son now, I wonder what his life will be like in twenty or so years when cars may fly and travel may consist of just thinking of your destination. Will the phrase "The best things in life are worth waiting for" still apply? We'll have to wait and see.

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