The Comfort Crisis and Old Fashioned Shopping

Inspired by the Centurion Decathlon, I read a book “The Comfort Crisis“.

Now as a vegetarian type of person, who thinks America would be a better place without any guns, I didn’t particularly warm to the fact half the book is about hunting for Cariboo in the wildest Alaska. But, putting aside that squeamishness, I did like the book. Perhaps more than anything I think the topic is very interesting. It also helps that I have been inspired by events such as the London 24-hour race and the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race in New York.

Walk to the shops

It did actually inspire me to make a change in my life. For the past five years, I have enjoyed the comfort of getting grocery shopping delivered from online orders. It’s amazing and you don’t have to leave your front door or carry anything heavy. But, I have decided that rather than relying on online delivery, I will start walking/running slowly to the supermarket, (which is actually only a paltry 0.25 miles away) but not only that – I will carry the shopping back home in a rucksack. I was particularly inspired by the idea that ‘Rucking’ – carrying heavy items in a rucksack is a great way to improve overall fitness. I was so inspired by my last shopping visit, I took a detour up a small hill and managed to make a 2 mile walk with backpack. Usually I don’t walk anywhere, nearly always cycling, but I want better all-round fitness and greater walking capacity.

Now, when I go shopping, I can’t help but think of my good friend Mahiruha who works as a checkout person in Chicago, US. Not only does Mahiruha pack bags, but he frequently recites poetry to his customers. He has so many good tales to tell, it is amazing to hear how people can be moved by such a simple act. Who would have thought you could go into a supermarket in Chicago and listen to a poem by Sri Chinmoy or others whilst buying your shopping? Who says America is in decline if there is this kind of inspiration still happening? (check out Mahiruha’s latest blog, as an example)

Alas, at my local supermarket, they have removed all checkouts, it is only robotic self-service. I know my elderly neighbour is deeply upset at this development. I feel slightly guilty as an economist as we always talk about productivity, but I think this is often at the expense of what matters to life.

The joy of human interaction I have felt recently, going around Oxford putting up posters for a forthcoming meditation course. So many nice simple interactions with shop owners. I always go to this fish and shop shop. It is run by two brothers from the Middle East, they are Sufis, and always have nice comments. One of them always says I look like the person (Sri Chinmoy) in the poster. Needless to say, it makes my day, I don’t care if it is flattery.

Going back to the comfort crisis, I increasingly enjoy rebelling against efforts to make humans lazy and weak. When I go to an airport, I’ve started taking rucksack rather than those roller suitcases. I walk and take steps rather than use a travellator/elevator. I even walked to terminal five, rather than short-train, A rebel without a cause.

Sri Chinmoy would often talk about changing our attitude to life.

Change your attitude!
Lo, look what stands before you:

– Sri Chinmoy

It’s amazing how I now view many experiences as an opportunity to strengthen physical fitness, rather than my previous attitude that it is hard work to be avoided by technology.

I can now do 30 push-ups in a day (not all at once obviously) but for a stick insect who once couldn’t do even one, this is a kind of progress. I do have a bit of a bad back this evening, let’s hope it is going to get stronger.


2 thoughts on “The Comfort Crisis and Old Fashioned Shopping”

  1. In a talk Sri Chinmoy gave sometime in the late 1990’s, he said:

    “I always say a knife is good. With a knife you can cut a fruit and share it with me. Again, with a knife you can stab me. Now I am speaking from the strict spiritual point of view. In a big factory or a big enterprise, if people have computers I do not mind. But now it has become a show. People care only for simplification. This simplification is taking away people’s capacity. In a store if you use a little machine to make calculations, that is fine, because hundreds of people are coming in to buy things. The mind will become tired and exhausted if it has to do all the calculations. But in many cases if we do not do things in a natural way, we lose our natural faculties, our inborn talents.”

    From my own experience, I can agree with Sri Chinmoy’s statements. I am a cashier, but I don’t know how to make change. On the rare occasions that someone still uses cash to pay, I use my screen to tell me how much change to give. I think from now on, I will try to figure out the change myself and then only rely on the screen if I need confirmation.

    I’ve stopped looking at my phone during meals. Now I make it a point to read- from physical books. At least while I’m eating, let me take a break from the internet world.

    I often suffer from gray days, from a sense of ennui or listlessness. I’ve identified one of the causes of my depression- too much sleep. Yes, I need sleep to refresh my subtle nerves, to rejuvenate myself. But when I sleep too much, I feel like it’s all I want to do. Then, what do I have to offer the world if my life has been one long nap?

    I know the company that owns my store is leading the race to make all stores in America self-checkout only, cashier-less models of efficiency. I know this day is coming. But they will still need someone to oil and grease the machines! In between wiping the gears, axles and sprockets, I will hopefully be able to share some poetry.

  2. Thanks for comment. I wouldn’t worry about using computer to do calculations, if you it gives you more time to recite poems. But, I’m sorry for inevitable changes in robotic economy.

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