Yesterday, an entrepreneur told me of his father, who died at 81. The father lived in a 4th floor walkup until he was 79, when a fire in the building forced a move to a new building. The new building came with a wonderful view of the East River and an elevator. The view was nice, but the elevator eliminated those eight flights of stairs up to the 4th floor. To this day, the entrepreneur is convinced losing that daily climb up the staircase was the death knell for his father.
It’s often quoted folk-wisdom that climbing stairs adds years to your life. That’s interesting, since the goal of human civilization, once past the creation of the civilization itself and aside from war, has largely been the elimination of all possible effort associated with life.
From elevators to Google search, anything that eliminates effort is rewarded; from rotary dial phones to manual crank car windows, anything that adds effort is penalized. Day by day, year by year, more and more effort is removed from life, leaving more and more effortless life, more and more elevator rides through existence.
Is there a price to pay for that?
Does having a few staircases to climb every day add the level of striving and exertion required for humans to be healthy, both mentally and physically?
What about on a societal scale?
When societies have no major challenges to overcome, no credible common goal they are collectively striving to achieve, no literal or figurative staircase to climb, they inevitably disintegrate.
How many staircases can we eliminate before we as individuals, and collectively as a society, lose what we need to be healthy and stay alive?
Have we already collectively moved out of our 4th floor walkup? And, if so, how much longer before the effects overwhelm us?
Asked another way, if we’re no longer climbing the stairs of individual and collective challenge, are we instead fat, happy and riding the elevator, merely waiting to get off at a higher floor, unprepared for what awaits us? Or, are we instead hurtling down the elevator shaft to the depths below, blissfully unaware we’ve traded what we need to survive and thrive as individuals and as a society for the ease of an effort- free, ignorance-is-bliss, abbreviated existence?
The entrepreneur who told me of his father is 83. He’s looking for another startup. He wants to be climbing stairs. He wants a 4th floor walkup.
Which are you looking for: the stairs or the elevator?
Which is your country looking for?