flickr photo by RW PhotoBug http://flickr.com/photos/rwr/345985074 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
For the last few years I have been looking long and hard at the words convenient and convenience. Something about those words made me uncomfortable. I recently looked it up and, besides being interpreted by the British as being a toilet, these are the two definitions that confirmed my understanding:
Convenience - noun (Google)
Convenient - adjective (Merriam Webster)
Here is the reason I have been struggling with these words. Basically, the idea of convenience is looked upon as a positive thing, but I am learning more and more that convenience should be seen with some trepidation; if it is convenient, there is likely to be a cost.
Recently, due to a medical issue, I was in a situation where I was losing weight as my ability to swallow was limited and painful. The doctor recommended using Ensure shakes 6 to 7 times a day to put on, or at least maintain, my weight. Ensure is very easy to make, just add water to the powder, stir, and consume. The homemade alternative involves a process taking at least 5 to 7 minutes in preparation and cleanup. Ensure is definitely convenient, but at what cost? A look at the ingredients provides a clue. Ensure's top 5 ingredients are: hydrolyzed corn starch, vegetable oil, calcium cassinate, sucrose, and vitamins and minerals. The tagline for Ensure's website are Nutritional Products for Your Health.
flickr photo by Carol Green http://flickr.com/photos/carol_green/3530943331 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
Examples of the use or idea of convenience are everywhere in our modern lives: owning a motorized vehicle, fast food, and, of course, convenience stores. But what are their costs? Driving a car gets you from A to B quickly, but you are more likely to become unfit, pollute the air, and miss the benefits of seeing things slowly. And this says nothing of traffic. Fast food is convenient, but again, at what cost. Nutrition and cooking skills are just two things that come to mind. And finally, convenience stores - take a look at what they house and, if they are open 24 hours, what about the store's employees?
My thinking is that we need to re-evaluate the meaning of the word convenience. If something is easy or 'without trouble', is that always a positive thing? Unless there is a symbiotic relationship, we should be very skeptical about something being convenient.
What are your thoughts on the idea of convenience? Is convenience just a product, or a goal, of society to make things easier? Do we need to balance those things that are convenient with those that we need to put some effort or work towards? Can you think of some other examples of a misleading convenience? Or, conversely, where does convenience really deliver a positive result?