By Jesse Jost
We are exposed to thousands of commercials and advertisements daily, each with the subtle and colourful message that we are missing something, that our life isn’t as good as it could be. These ads train us to focus on what we don’t have, and bemoan our lack, rather than live in awe of the wonders of our modern age.
We have so quickly forgotten what life was like for those who came before us. Take, for example, the life of one of the most powerful and wealthy men who lived during the last part of the 1600s: King Louis XIV. As the powerful ruler of the French empire, he had access to quality of life that peasants in his day could barely fathom. Yet, as a modern Canadian rural peasant, I have access to quality of life that would make Louis shake his head in wonder.
Louis could hire world class musicians to occasionally perform a concert, but I, with a few clicks, can bring crystal clear recordings of any type or genre, of the world’s greatest performers from the last seventy years into our house, car, or even on outdoor runs, and switch between songs effortlessly without waiting for musicians to travel or set up.
Louis could hire a drama troupe to perform plays, but I have access thousands of movies that would have dazzled Louis with the quality of musical score, cinematography, acting, and special effects, and I can watch them all in the security and comfort of my heated living room, without worrying about an assassin’s bullet.
The King of France could hire talented chefs who could prepare freshly butchered meats and rare delicacies, and because of his great wealth could occasionally enjoy fruits and vegetables that ordinary people had only heard about. I, on the other hand, can visit a supermarket and on my “below the poverty line” income can purchase any type of meat or fresh fruit year round, and stock up on well-preserved jams, breads, pastas, rice, and an unbelievable array of sauces, spices, and desserts. And I can prepare them on a well-regulated electric stove, and pull prepared meats anytime of the year from our freezer that I can thaw in a few minutes in a microwave, and store the left overs in our fridge that will keep them fresh for days. I have access to recipes and ingredients from all over the world with clear and simple instructions on how to prepare them with all of the conveniences of the modern kitchen.
Louis could hire men to take care of his stable of horses, and hitch his team to his padded, gilded carriage, and be pulled through bumpy cobblestone streets, with very limited seasonal access to dirt roads. But I can ignite the power of hundreds of horses with the turn of a key, and drive in an air-conditioned – or heated – smooth-driving van, on well cared for paved roads, at speeds that would have given Louis an early heart attack. The fact that I can listen to radio dramas and world-class musicians, and be directed on my travels by GPS, are just taken-for-granted side bonuses.
Louis would have had the rare privilege of dozens of servants who would chop the wood to build fires, and light the candles, and boil the water to draw a bath in a cold, damp, room. I have a hot water heater that gives me a hot bath or shower any time of the day, I have clean pressurized running water to several rooms in our house, not to mention that whole heated, in-door “outhouse” that makes the daily waste removal a much more pleasant experience. I can set the amount of light to whatever brightness I desire with only the slide of a switch. And any time I am thirsty, I can flip a lever and have cold, clear, cholera free, delicious water.
The Sun King could seek wise men and scientists who had only a basic understanding of the way the world worked, and whose ideas where very limited by the painful transmission of data. I can sit down in front of my computer or hold my little tablet, and find a bevy of information on any topic that piques my interest. I can watch stunning videos of giraffes in a life or death battle, and access jaw dropping shots of planets and galaxies. I can watch film clips of the 1924 Olympics, or revisit key speeches of the last one hundred years. I can video chat with friends who live on the other side of the world, and get instant text messages from relatives on vacation in the Middle East.
When the most powerful man on the world became ill he could summon dreadfully misinformed doctors, who with bacteria-infested instruments would attempt excruciating surgeries without any painkillers, and if that failed, resort to the cure-all of blood-letting. When I have a medical emergency I can call first responders who will transport me to a sterile hospital that is equipped with state of the art diagnostic tools, well-trained medical personnel who have been informed by thousands of studies and tests, and know how to perform life saving operations that are performed under anaesthesia. And access to these medical services will be covered financially.
I have barely scratched the surface of how quality of life has improved since Louis attended his last gala. With modern deodorants and running water, life no longer needs to constantly burn the nostrils. Even if paying the finest tailors in land, I’m sure Louis’ outfits were nowhere near as comfortable as my Value Village specials.
With such vast improvements to our quality of life, a time traveler from the 1700’s would expect us to wake each day overwhelmed with gratitude and wonder. But sadly, such is not the case. Depression is still at epidemic levels, and suicide tops the list as cause of death for young people.
Happiness does not depend on your outward circumstances, but by your response to them. Don’t believe the lie that a new purchase or change in comfort level will bring lasting happiness. We already live a quality of life that the wealthy and the powerful of centuries past would drool over. The key is to start noticing and choosing to be grateful for the many undeserved expressions of grace our Heavenly Father gives us each moment.