The other day, my friend Pedro was telling me about a trip to the zoo that he just took with a few friends. The zoo is not quite the same experience as when you’re a kid you know. He was telling me that, even while they enjoyed checking out the animals, he felt a sense of sadness for them. Because they were living their lives in captivity and far removed from how they were meant to live, just so we could point and stare. Not that Pedro is going to join PETA and throw red paint on people wearing fur coats or anything, but he does have a point. There is something sad about a creature being pulled so far from its natural home and way of life and put into a controlled environment where all that it needs will just be handed to it. I mean, on the one hand it is much safer, more comfortable and far more convenient. But I wonder if they are happier. I wonder if all of the convenience and safety have actually killed off the natural instincts and drive that actually make a lion a lion or an elephant and elephant. And maybe all we’re really looking at now is a lethargic, unproductive, elephant-shaped creature with an identity crisis.
It sounds an awful lot like teenagers in the suburbs, doesn’t it. At least that’s the kind of thing I hear parents in the suburbs say about their teenagers… “They’re all lazy!” “They are so unmotivated!” “It’s like they expect everything in life to just be handed to them!” Well, is that an unfair expectation if it has always been true. To be fair, it’s not just teenagers and it’s not just the suburbs. It seems that we have all bought into the lie that everything in life should be safe, comfortable, and easy or it’s just not worth doing. If you don’t believe me, just watch any TV commercial. Just about every product being advertised will make one of these three promises in some form or another: more safe, more comfortable, or more convenient (having to do with the amount of effort or time).
More than ever before we can control our environments and surround ourselves with safety, comfort and convenience. But, instead of becoming more fulfilled, more productive and more confident we are traveling in the opposite direction. Stats show that we are rapidly moving towards less healthy, less fulfilled and ultimately less meaningful lives. It’s like every little advancement in culture that is meant to make life easier ultimately ends up killing off just a little more of the essence of what life’s about.
Even our churches play into this race to the bottom. Offering attenders everything from full-service espresso bars to different worship services to fit your favorite style of music and attire. And, with all of our cool, flashy programs and hip environments, the church in the West is in massive decline. Meanwhile, the church in China, which exists under extreme persecution, is exploding with vitality. Why is that? By making it easier and more comfortable, could we actually be killing it?
We’re not so different from these pitiful animals in the zoo really. If left on our own in the wild many of us wouldn’t make it through the night. Some of us would probably be dead within the hour. It’s tragic really. Man, who was created to subdue the earth, has become so afraid of it that we have created an entirely artificial, digital world so we don’t even have to go outside anymore.
This is not some naïve call to return to nature and the good ole hunter-gatherer days. Because, honestly, they weren’t all that good. There is real value in the safety, convenience and comfort that modern society has brought us. I just think it’s good to be aware of the side-effects. If your drinking water has arsenic in it, it won’t kill you immediately, but you may want to know your drinking poison. Nothing comes without a cost. So, next time you’re tempted to avoid something because the parking lot is too far away or simply because it may actually involve you leaving the house, just remember of those lethargic lions in the zoo who haven’t had to hunt a meal in their entire life. They don’t seem so much like the kings of the jungle anymore do they.
Don’t take all of the short-cuts all of the time. You’re meant for more than that.
(Sorry about the title. These days I read a lot of Dr. Suess books to the kids…)