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It's All Too Easy

by Beata Bishop(more info)

listed in holistic psychotherapy, originally published in issue 109 - March 2005

These days, if you read advertisements, posters and other kinds of promotional material that seem to drop on you from all directions, you'll notice how tender and caring many of them sound. It's as if the sole aim of the commercial world were to make our lives smoother, happier and, above all, easier. Indeed, 'easy' is the key word. It crops up all over the place. Book ads assure me that the latest bestseller is an easy read. Wonder what that means. Perhaps it's sufficiently dumbed down to suit even the dimmest among us – but that's rather patronizing, I don't like it, and refuse to buy the book. Or take the fashion catalogues that arrive on my doorstep in thick droves – Heaven knows why: most of them contain garments that claim to be easy to wear. That's baffling, too. The only garments I've ever found less than easy were a size or two too small and hence impossible to get into. None of the others I ever owned objected to being worn.

Then we are offered goods that are easy to order on the internet, the latest make-up that's easy to apply, the gourmet meal that is easy to produce (just remove the packaging, pop it in the microwave and serve to your admiring guests, who may be tactful enough not to recognize the easy stuff they eat at home, too). And if, despite all this smooth and easy way of life, one day you get depressed, it's easy to get a prescription for a suitable drug, which will repress your sadness without curing its cause. Indeed, thanks to the efforts of the tender and caring pharmaceutical industry, there is 'a pill for every ill', including ordinary human experiences, which would respond more to counselling than to a chemical cosh. However, popping a pill is easier than confronting reality.

"Leave it to us!" seems to be the message of all those thoughtful, caring advertisers, and of course it's a tempting invitation. Look, no hands, no need to make an effort; as long as we can afford all that lovely service, there's nothing to worry about. Or perhaps there is.

For, according to Jung, idleness is one of humankind's greatest passions. It implies getting someone else to do the work, make the effort, produce the fruits without the labour. That urge was the motive behind the institution of slavery in the past, some of which still survives to this day in third world countries and first world households, and behind the endless fantasies about obedient all-purpose robots in recent times. Such robots are still waiting to be developed, but meanwhile we have a huge and growing service industry and a commercial world, keen to make our lives… easy.

So what's wrong with that? Plenty. For one thing, it makes us even lazier and more passive than we already are, which is pretty alarming – hardly a potent antidote to the obesity epidemic sweeping the land. For another, it removes any kind of healthy challenge from daily life, on a physical as well as a psychological level. 'Use it or lose it' applies to one's brain, muscles and creative imagination just as much as to the local sub-post office threatened with closure. If I limit my intake to easy-to-read stuff, after a while I shan't be able to follow anything that's a little more demanding. Ready-made gourmet meals will stop me from cooking. In other words, the universal easing of all our chores will leave us de-skilled. This is a kind of silken take-over, worse than the activities of the Nanny State, because at first it seems so nice and comfortable. But losing skills is dangerous. It creates total dependence. Imagine what happens if the external supply dries up and we no longer know how to solve everyday problems, cook a meal from scratch, or communicate/pay bills/order goods/check accounts without a functioning computer, whose myriad skills leave a huge black hole when the system crashes.

I realized that many years ago, in my pre-computer days, when astrological software was an exciting novelty. Newly qualified as a professional astrologer after years of study, I was sharing a table at a conference with some younger astrologers who were discussing the virtues of different software. I had no idea what they were talking about and felt accordingly ignorant, obsolete and inferior. When one of my colleagues asked me which software I was using, I admitted that I was still calculating charts without benefit of computing. Oh well, if you know how to do it, came the answer in an awe-struck voice. So there we were, envying each other, but after a moment I no longer felt inferior, because I realized that if a global power shortage shut down all computers worldwide, unlike those software-dependent whiz-kids I could still go on working with pen, paper and logarithms.

Surely the answer is to enjoy whatever ease we're offered, without getting de-skilled. It's all too easy to get flabby both physically and mentally, and then wonder where all the colour and zest – and occasional annoyance – of daily life has gone. Many people know instinctively that we need challenges to remain healthy and fully alive; I suspect that that is the need that drives millions of DIY fans, amateur gardeners, volunteers of all kinds, members of the worldwide Slow Food Movement who keep traditional cooking alive, and students of impractical but intriguing subjects. The results may not be world-class – sometimes they are downright disastrous, like my first attempts to grow cauliflowers – but the point is to keep our skills going, flexing our physical and mental muscles, and find, to our delighted surprise how easy it really is.


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About Beata Bishop

Beata Bishop is a writer, lecturer and psychotherapist in private practice, working along Jungian and transpersonal lines. Her special interests include the role of the spiritual dimension in all kinds of healing, and the body-mind link in sickness and health. Her book, A Time to Heal (First Stone Publishing, 2010), describes her journey from life-threatening cancer to robust health using an unorthodox nutritional therapy. She can be contacted on e-mail:

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