Uncomplicated


I saw this immaculate row of plates filled with neatly cut vegetables. The table where they were on was tidy and attractive. A promo guy was demonstrating how they came to be-- the neatly cut vegetables and the tidy table. I watched in awe as he 'cut' a whole carrot in just a few minutes, without making any mess. Wow! It was totally out of MY world!

When I work in the kitchen, expect some damage and casualty like you would do during a war. Vegetables fly around while I try to contain my uncontrolled chopping and slicing. Kitchen utensils fall down or jump around like there's zero or double gravity. I am a wild, undomesticated cook. Usually, after the cooking is done, you can imagine the kitchen to be a very off-putting place to dine.


I wanted what he was selling-- a gadget to help me glide through cooking. I can just imagine myself cooking like Martha Stewart, slicing, chopping, cutting effortlessly. The kitchen is spick and span, well-ordered and looking picture-perfect. After much begging and images of delectable meals, my husband gave in and bought me the gadget. It was a super slicer/cutter that was supposed to make cooking preparations effortless and uncomplicated.

Then we used it and... used it only once. The guy at the supermarket made the cooking preparations look so easy that we thought it would also be a breeze at home. We didn't count the time it would take to assemble the parts, set it up, use it (gingerly and carefully as to not include our fingers), take them apart, and to wash them. The washing of each parts alone took quite some time. Plus, there were tots calling for my attention, clinging to one knee making progress around the kitchen almost totally impossible. By the time we were done it took us longer to cook than we would have if we've used the plain ol' trusty knife. Simpler? Absolutely not.

Studies show (Vanek, J., 1974; Bittman, M., Rice, J. M., & Wacjman, J., 2003) that what we thought gadgets have brought into our lives--- saved time and effort in doing housework, has actually made us spend more time and more energy in doing them. Vanek argued that these 'labour-saving' machines had barely changed the time spent in housework since 1924, even when most households have practically all the appliances imagined or invented. Furthermore, Bittman, Rice and Wacjman's study proves that not only these domestic technology barely reduces work time at home, it even increases some domestic labour.

How can these be? The researchers have proposed that our modern lifestyle has made us slaves to our wants. Yes, we have all these labour-saving machines, like a washing machine, but we also have more clothes to wash and we have become more uptight over trifling dirt or uncleanliness. We have accumulated so much stuff that needs so much work and cleaning and we have increased luxuries that we have forgotten how it is to be simple. A speck of dust on our pants means washing, which could have been solved by simply brushing them off. As somebody has succicntly qouted, "Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves" (E. W. Teale).

The Bible admonishes us that we need to seek God first, "and all these things" will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). We have distorted our priorities. We are majoring in the minors and have forgotten what the major is. God claims the first place in our lives, not the stuff, not the busy going-ons in our lives.

I don't need that super slicer/cutter thing in my kitchen, because a plain old knife will do. We don't need a lot of stuff to feel important, polished and influential in this life, because only the basic character of Jesus is the only thing that will do. It is that simple. His character takes us far more than our stuff can and will give us satisfaction and happiness that nobody can take away.

Honesty, integrity, courtesy, kindness, warmth, industry, modesty, community... these are what makes life.

Don't complicate life. Let's go back to the basics. We need to learn our priorities. We need to learn how to live simply, without cluttering our hearts and our lives.We need Jesus.

References:
Vanek, J. (1974), 'Time Spent in Housework', Scientific American, 231, 5, 116-120.
Bittman, M., Rice, J. M., & Wacjman, J. (2003), 'Appliances and Their Impact: The Ownership of Domestic Technology and Time Spent on Household Work, SPRC Discussion Paper, 129, Sydney: The Social Policy Research Center

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