One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it. Let’s take a familiar example from our own time. Over the last few decades, we have invented countless timesaving devices that are supposed to make life more relaxed – washing machines. Vacuum cleaners. dishwashers, telephones, mobile phones, computers, email. Previously it took a lot of work to write a letter, address and stamp an envelope, and take it to the post box. It took days or weeks, maybe even months, to get a reply. Nowadays, I can dash off an email, send it halfway across the globe, and (if my addressee is online) receive a reply a minute later. I’ve saved all that trouble and time, but do I live a more relaxed life?
Sadly not. Back in the snail-mail era, people usually only wrote letters when they had something important to relate. Rather than writing the first thing that came into their heads, they considered carefully what they wanted to say and how to phrase it. They expected to receive a similarly considered answer. Most people wrote and received no more than a handful of letters a month and seldom felt compelled to reply immediately. Today we receive dozens of email each day, all from people who expect a prompt reply. We thought we were saving time; instead we revved up the treadmill of life to ten times its former speed and made our days more anxious and agitated.
Haroon Ibn Ebrahim Sidat
31st May 2015.