I have a tree outside my office window, where, every year, a robin comes to build a nest and lay her eggs. I have watched this bird tirelessly fly back and forth from this tree, each time returning with a mouthful of twigs, grass, and whatever else their nests are made of.
I cannot pretend to know what is going on in the head of a bird (keeping track of my own thoughts is hard enough), but I think it’s safe to say that this robin isn’t complaining. It does what it has to do to build the nest so it has a safe and comfortable place to lay its eggs.
Humans are the only species that spends a good chunk of their lives trying to figure out how to make life easier. Anything we can do to lessen our workload, we do. We have self-propelled, motorized lawn mowers, self-cleaning ovens, and remote controls for our televisions, garage doors, and anything else electronic. The less we have to do, the more advanced and special we feel. It’s awesome! Or is it?
It is safe to say that our efforts to minimize the energy we have to expend each day have backfired. There is a direct relationship between our declining need to physically work and the increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and every other chronic illness that plagues Americans today.
In the early 1800’s, just two hundred years ago, 80-90% of the population worked in farming. This required physical movement daily and hard physical labor. Now, only about two percent of the population work as farmers. The Industrial Revolution started to replace manual work with machines. People moved from the fields to cities, taking them from a life of lifting, bending, and twisting, to a new life of sitting in a chair.
Every animal on the planet has specific needs in order to express optimal health. Most people believe the level of their health is dependent on the genes they are born with. The reality is that the genes you have must be expressed. When you live a lifestyle that is congruent with how a healthy human should live, good genes are turned on, and bad genes can get turned off. Unhealthy lifestyle choices do the opposite, turning on bad genes and turning off good ones.
Exercise and movement induce healthy, normal expression of our genome. Therefore, as we become more and more sedentary, our bodies are less and less able to function the way they were designed to. The result? The massive boom in chronic illness that we have seen over the past fifty to one hundred years.
Today you could function almost exclusively from a chair, without ever having to leave your home. Is it cool that you can order your groceries online and have them delivered? Yep! Is it neat that my daughter can text her friend that lives three houses down to see if she is home so that she doesn’t have to walk there? Sure! Is it convenient that someone picks up our trash each week, we have machines that wash our clothes, and cars to move us around town? Absolutely! But we have stripped ourselves of the activity that our bodies require. Our quest for a life of leisure has led to a life of chronic illness.
Now, I am all for invention, progress, and innovation, and love new gadgets that make life easier (I have a bunch of them), but let’s put a little effort into making life a little harder. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or ride a bike to the store. Go visit a friend instead of calling them. Plant a garden. Do some of those household projects yourself. Get active! Move your body. Flex those muscles.
Putting a pre-made nest in that tree for that bird would make its life easier, and dropping off some worms every day would eliminate a lot of its hard work, but eventually that bird would become fat, lazy, and sick… just like most Americans.