Many feel trapped in the stress-filled, nonstop rat race called the modern world. Is there more to life than just living in the “here and now”?
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STOP! Before reading any further, unplug your phone. Turn off your cell phone, pager, television, radio and MP3 player. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by phone calls, TV shows or music. Do not let instant messages or emails interrupt you or break your train of thought.
At this point, you are probably thinking, “You have got be kidding!”
But consider. You possess a precious, highly valuable—yet often mismanaged—resource: time. And your time is important. Once it is gone, it is gone forever—you cannot afford to let it go to waste!
With all the above-mentioned modern communication devices turned off, you might feel as though you are disconnected from the outside world. Relax. The average person reads 250 words a minute; it should take you only about ten minutes to read this article. Afterward, you can turn everything on and return to this adrenaline-driven civilization.
In the meantime, take advantage of this momentary break from society, and consider what you are really “missing.”
In the Western world, a typical day begins with a mad rush to get the family ready for the day. Breakfast time is far from a “family meal.” Often, each member of the family is on his or her own, getting his cereal, toast or just a quick snack—or even skipping breakfast altogether because he does not have time. This meal is often referred to as the most important meal of the day. Yet, ironically, recent surveys reveal that 37% of those between the ages of 19 and 29 skip breakfast. Without this essential meal, productivity is severely limited.
Many parents now take the time to drive their children to school, when in times past they would have walked or taken the bus.
Next is the challenge of commuting to work, which averages 24 minutes per day in the United States—over 100 hours each year! This is longer than the 80 hours of vacation time for which we spend the entire year working. With many drivers running behind, everyone is in a hurry to get to work on time. Tempers often get short, and “road rage” ensues.
Then there are the many hours spent at work meeting deadlines, writing emails and memos, making phone calls, etc.—though the pace seems to quicken, less seems to be accomplished. A research paper published by the Families and Work Institute titled “Overwork in America: When the Way We Work Becomes Too Much” concluded that one in three American employees are chronically overworked; 54% of American employees have felt overwhelmed at some time in the past month by how much work they had to complete; and 29% of employees spend a lot of time doing work that they consider a waste of time (and these employees are more likely to be overworked).
The fast pace continues after the family returns home from school and work. This is no longer a definite time of the day, as mom or dad might be working overtime or a second job to make ends meet—leaving their children unsupervised. There are extracurricular activities that the children will need to be driven to: football, baseball, soccer, ballet, gymnastics, etc. Then there are television shows that “must” be watched and video games that “must” be played. Groceries need to be bought, and laundry needs to be done. Few families will be able to sit together uninterrupted during dinner, discussing the day’s issues and building family relations.
Eventually, the day comes to an end, leaving many exhausted, stressed and worn out, wondering, “Where did the day go?” Sadly, it will only begin again as soon as the alarm clock sounds. This minute-to-minute lifestyle has many effects—consequences to consider.
The modern world lives life at a pace that leaves no room for second thoughts, and no room to think about the many adverse effects on society—and our headlines show these on a daily basis.
A topic that is constantly in the news is abortion, and the most recent debate is over emergency contraceptives commonly referred to as “Plan-B” or the “Morning after Pill.” If people would stop and consider the consequences of their actions, millions of babies would not be killed. But it is much easier to enjoy the moments of fleeting pleasure now, and deal with the outcome later!
Another needless headline is “Shaken Baby Syndrome” (SBS). Some chilling statistics from a recent Canadian study, conducted over a 10-year period, reported that 364 of that nation’s children were hospitalized for SBS. Of those, 19% died, and 59% had neurological or visual impairment, or other health effects; 19% of 364 is equivalent to 70 babies—7 babies per year needlessly killed. Though this is a relatively small number of deaths, consider that the cause is 100% preventable! This abuse often occurs due to frustration, combined with loss of control by the parent or caregiver.
Impatient parents have raised impatient children, who themselves ultimately become impatient parents. They lack basic self-control and the knowledge that it takes time—lots of time—to care for a newborn baby.
Impulsiveness can be demonstrated in other ways. During “February sweeps,” on the most popular afternoon television talk show, a conversation occurred that could have been mistaken for an excerpt from a morning shock radio show. This program featured two women guests talking openly and explicitly about their sexual escapades. One of them compared sexual desire for a stranger to wanting an éclair in a bakery. The other had four or five sexual “friends” she could “call anytime.” This was on a program that is squarely in the mainstream!
Search statistics for cell phones with web capabilities boggle the mind. Typically, 8.5% of searches on the Internet are for pornography. Compare this to one in five—20%!—of all searches on cell phones being for pornography (New Scientist). Sex has become a commodity, available anywhere—everywhere—at any time!
Our society has drastically changed in other ways. Computers, the Internet and cell phones help us to communicate quickly and more efficiently. But email is destroying what was once common etiquette in business communications.
Instant messaging and texting have taken this further, actually changing the language. Try to decipher this sample of texting: “hi m8 u k?-sry i 4gt 2 call u lst nyt-y dnt we go c film 2moz.” At a quick glance, it looks like a foreign language. Here is the translation: “Hi mate. Are you okay? I am sorry that I forgot to call you last night. Why don’t we go and see a film tomorrow?” Even the translation has lost the formality and precision that was once used in communication. Gone are the times when writers carefully considered each word, because every word had meaning.
The phenomenal growth in gambling is one more example of society forgetting the old adage, “Good things come to those who wait.” Gaming seems to be everywhere, with many cities and states vying to get in on the action with their own casinos.
As well, the popularity of online gambling is exploding, with television ads commonplace. The statistics are stunning! Worldwide, online gambling revenue rose from $8.5 billion in 2004 to $10.9 billion in 2005—a 28-plus percent increase! In America, the 30 million who participated in online gaming in 2005 were more than double the 13.6 million players in 2001. Gambling from the comfort of one’s own living room, and the chance to “win big” without hard work, is just too tempting for many. Few take time to consider that, ultimately, the casinos and state-run lotteries win every time!
Family life is under constant pressure. On average, a father spends only 5 minutes with a child each day, and a mother just 20 minutes. Much more time is required to properly train children in how to live and how to make right decisions. No wonder many parents lose touch with their children, and many families fall apart.
The overuse of television also hurts the family. Consider these hard statistics: The time per day that the television is on in an average U.S. home is 7 hours, 40 minutes; the amount of television that the average American watches per day is over 4 hours; for U.S. children age 6 and under, time spent daily with screen media is about 2 hours; 45% of parents say that if they have something important to do, it is likely that they will use the TV to occupy their child; 40% of Americans often or always watch television while eating dinner; the time per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is 38.5 minutes; 54% of 4- to 6-year-olds state that they would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers.
Ponder the last point. Over half of 4- to 6-year-olds chose TV over the most important man in their lives!
There is evidence suggesting that early exposure to television can “rewire” a child’s developing brain patterns. An article in The Wall Street Journal related the experience of professional storyteller Odds Bodkin. In his experience performing for children, he observed that restlessness sets in after about seven minutes, as their inner clocks anticipate a “commercial break.” They appear to be conditioned by television to expect a commercial interruption every seven minutes.
In reading this article, you may have now reached that seven-minute mark when the attention span wanes and the mind craves a change. Perhaps you are beginning to feel that restlessness.
Here you can make a choice: If you love minute-to-minute living—living on the edge—stop reading, turn everything back on and rejoin the rat race. The modern world will support your choice.
On the other hand, if you choose to continue reading, you will begin to learn the cause of the rat race in which we live.
We have seen the results of minute-to-minute living in headlines and statistics. These consequences may not have been foreseen by society, but they were prophesied thousands of years ago by the prophet Daniel: “The time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (12:4).
The effects of this modern age are related to a choice between two basic ways of life: one is the way of give—caring, outgoing love and concern for your fellow man; the other is the way of get—acquiring everything possible for the satisfaction of self. Our entire society is built on catering to our human nature—the way of get.
In our fast-paced world, many no longer take the time to ask the big questions of life: “Who am I?” “What am I?” “Why do I exist?” These are questions that we need to ask—and answer. The answers are available, if we look in the right place—the Word of God. The Scriptures reveal God’s Plan for mankind!
As you endure the adrenaline-driven rat race we call civilization, realize that there is a purpose for your life—and it is worth spending that precious resource called time to discover it!
To learn more about God’s purpose for your life, read our booklet Why Do You Exist?