Sunday, September 4, 2016
When I was a child, one of my favorite things was to visit the "Variety Store" while my mom was at the grocery store down the street. Mom handed out three nickels to three little girls and we slowly perused the candy choices in the glass cabinet. Snickers, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, Milky Way, maybe a chewy Bit-O-Honey, or M&M's. Or how about licorice sticks, Tootsie Rolls and Bazooka Bubblegum - two for a penny. The choices seemed infinite.
A few days ago, I browsed a convenience store candy aisle for a little treat with my gas fill-up. The choices weren't infinite, they were overwhelming! Snickers, Snickers Bites, Snickers Almond, Snickers Peanut Butter Squares, Snicker's Ice Cream Bars, Snickers Eggs, Snickers 2 Go, Snickers Fun Size, Snickers Miniatures, Snickers King Size. And that was just one brand.
The same comparison can be made with television channels. In the 60's and 70's we had four channels (if the weather was clear) - ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. When we got married in the early 80's, we got cable and expanded our lineup to about twenty channels. Today we have hundreds of channels. The time required to sift through them all uses up all of our viewing time, so we usually just watch the same four or five channels.
Eating out used to mean visiting a locally-owned restaurant. Today, every city has block after block of franchised eating choices - from burgers to steak to pizza to sushi. Children no longer go home from school to play with the other kids in their neighborhood. They choose from sports, martial arts, music, gymnastics, dance and dozens of other activities. The expansion of options also applies to gas stations, car manufacturers, and even beer.
I didn't need shelf after shelf of sweets at the convenience store. To me, it was "noise". The volume and pace of life has increased a hundred-fold in the last fifty years. And so has the accompanying exhaustion. Stress relief has become a mammoth business.
Ironically, one of the newest trends in stress management is to simplify - downsize, live smaller, have fewer choices. Maybe progress isn't all it's cracked up to be.