Technology—can’t live with it, can’t live without it. How many of us even take our normal routes nowadays without activating our GPS or Waze? Maybe there’s traffic. Maybe there’s a speed trap. What if Waze knows of some shortcut I never even thought about?
Just imagine, as technology gets more and more advanced, we’ll have more and more conveniences to save us time and energy. What will life be like at a time when we are well beyond Waze?
“Good morning. It is 6:45. Time for you to wake up.” You blink. Your eyes open slightly and you start to doze. “No, no, dear. You can’t go back to sleep. You’ll be late for work.” You grimace. He’s right, you know. Surprise. He’s always right. You open both eyes and stare directly at him. “Negel vasser, please.”
The robot comes back with your washing cup. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. “Outfit, please,” you mumble at the robot. “The weather outside will be roughly 80 degrees, with a humidity of 67%. Shall I fetch a preselected outfit based on the weather and day of the week?” “Yes.” Robots can be annoying, but they sure make life easier.
Five minutes later, you’re ready for the day. A quick stop by the powder bot and your face is made up just enough. It’s on the “no makeup look” setting, just how you like it. An all-in-one mouthwash gets your teeth cleaner than any toothbrush used to, and you’re good to go.
Soon you’re in the kitchen. Time to prepare everyone’s breakfast. Honestly, this is the very best part of your day. Back in the old days, you used to go crazy in the kitchen. There was the planning of the meals before you could even prepare them. Then there was all the time getting the food ready. Then, when it was all cooked, there was the massive cleanup. Then everyone came down and devoured all the food you had prepared without even taking a moment to appreciate the hard work that went into a decent breakfast. And a hearty lunch. And a well-balanced afternoon snack. And a filling family dinner.
Now, everyone has pre-mixed meal pouches, nutritionally balanced to fit each family member’s needs. No more worrying about what to feed them or complaints or cleaning up. Everyone files in, grabs the appropriate pouch and smiles.
Your husband grabs his meal pouch of coffee, eggs, toast, and salad and gingerly places it in his shirt pocket. “Thanks. That should keep me going for a few hours. Bye.”
Next, the kids file in. “Morning, Mom!” They grab their food pouches, each one balanced for age group, gender and BMI, as well as allergies and physical activity levels. They open them and pour the nourishing powder down their throats. “Bye, Mom. We’ll see you later.”
Finally, quiet. The house is all yours. Now what? Daven. There are still some things that robots can’t do for us.
LOSING OUR WAZE
The technology that is already at our fingertips is very powerful. It can save us a lot of time and grant us conveniences that seemed unthinkable even 20 years ago. Imagine that just 10 short years ago we were still fumbling with maps and atlases! It’s amazing to think we ever figured out how to get where we needed to be. And sometimes we didn’t quite figure it out. We’d get lost. We’d miss the exit. We’d get confused and pull into gas station after gas station trying to solve the puzzle of getting to our destination. But Waze has saved us a lot of that exhausting process.
And so it’s not a shock that we want to Waze everything in our lives. What if, one day, we would have a Waze for food? What if we could just tell it where we need to get to and it would direct us there?
“Waze…I’m pre-diabetic. Tell me what to eat.” “Have a pleasant meal,” it would respond, as it would itemize the what and when of your caloric intake. And at the end of a long, grueling day, as you reach for that pint of premium ice cream, your food Waze would remind you that you have taken a detour. “Now, rerouting…” it would say, while recalculating your menu for the rest of the week. Then finally, “You’ve arrived at your destination,” as you drift off to sleep, having navigated the difficult world of sound eating. Of course, it would be ready to recalculate in the middle of the night, if the need would arise.
We could venture further and have Waze help us navigate our marriages and our parenting too. It would remind us about anniversaries or birthdays or the name of that fifth kid that we always forget when we get flustered. It would help us by updating the appropriate way to respond to our spouses and children at crucial moments with live feed comments like, “Warning: Bad day at school up ahead. Proceed with caution.” And of course, there would be those ever-important reroutes when wouldn’t go as planned.
Eventually, we could program our Waze for life to guide us from preschool to the grave and save us all that work of struggling through life.
But you’ve probably already realized that that is basically what defines life. That the process and the struggle are what shape us. That uncertainty and doubt are the domain in which bitachon and self-reliance develop. Somewhere along the way, Waze got us to our destination at the price of the journey.
As an Intuitive Eating coach, I am often faced with the challenge that people have gotten used to the quick fixes that our modern world has groomed them for. They come looking for guarantees, for clear time frames, for promised results. They want to change, but their lives are far too busy to put in the hard work. If they could, they would pay me handsomely to do it for them.
Here is where Waze has steered us wrong. As we drive along, our attention is fixed on every command that our navigation device feeds us. In 300 feet, turn left. We are fully invested in reaching our destination in flawless fashion. Unfortunately, the family trips of today have lost the sense of journey and adventure of yesteryear.
The thrill of a process is that the journey itself writes the map. As we run into traffic, we learn the patterns of the road. When we get lost, we strengthen our internal map, figuring out our way by understanding street grids, the position of the sun, relative positioning, and other important tools. When we find our way on our own or discover a new shortcut, nothing can replace our sense of accomplishment.
When it comes to living life, we have to know that Hashem has brought us here for a long journey. The challenges we face in our day-to-day lives are the opportunities to become great people. When we look for shortcuts, we are actually looking to shortchange our own greatness. And unlike a GPS, we never know what destination Hashem has in mind for us. Often, we miss the mark of where we are meant to be, or we convince ourselves that others can get us there. That someone else is the expert in my personal journey.
In an amazing eye-opener, I learned while doing some research that the first time the idea of food capsules was introduced was at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. American suffragette Mary Elizabeth Lease wrote of a future in which we would only eat synthetic food, and thus liberate women from their constant toil in the kitchen. People would “take, in condensed form from the rich loam of the earth, the life force or germs now found in the heart of the corn, in the kernel of wheat, and in the luscious juices of the fruits. A small phial of this life from the fertile bosom of Mother Earth will furnish men with substance for days. And thus the problems of cooks and cooking will be solved.”
In many ways, technology has allowed for faster meals and easier kitchen work. Science has even worked tirelessly to take the brainwork out of food choices. The internet and book stores are cluttered with endless “foolproof” diets, meal plans, charts, and studies. The more we are looking to shortcut the process, the more technology offers us solutions.
Ultimately, the millions of test cases around the world, and the hundreds of women I’ve worked with, have proven that our relationship with food has no shortcuts. Only by slowing down and paying attention can you gain powerful insights into your own inner map. It may take a hundred meals where you eat your kids leftover fries before you realize that cold, soggy fries don’t actually give you pleasure. It might take five years of going to bed hungry before you realize your body works best with a small snack before sleep. It could cost you dozens of boxes of zebra stripe cookies before you understand what keeps driving you to eating them uncontrollably.
The journey of building the ultimate tool kit for nurturing our bodies in a way in which we feel great and accomplish at our highest level is one that takes time to develop. No book can give it to you and no machine can do it for you.
In Intuitive Eating, good self-care often goes hand in hand with living through the process. Taking the time to understand the who, what, where, when, why and how of our relationship with food is at the forefront of guiding ourselves toward menuchas hanefesh and functioning at our very best. Yes, that process takes time. It has to be explored thoroughly, delving into each person’s own unique path. But that isn’t time lost. It is an opportunity gained.
Sure, technology can do a lot. But there are still certain things only we can do for ourselves.
This article was originally published in The Voice of Lakewood.