Mental Technique: What Would a Medieval Peasant Think?

I · May 10, 2021

Sometimes I think about things in a way that I find makes it easier to reason or puts things into a certain useful perspective. I’ll periodically share these ways of thinking in “Mental Techniques” posts.

In any society, it’s remarkably easy to forget that the way things are isn’t necessarily the way things always have been.

A consequence of this is that there are ways in which our society rocks that we treat as normal, and likewise for ways in which our society stinks. This post will focus on the former.

A technique that helps me keep perspective of how great I have it is to view things through the lens of what a medieval peasant would think.

A medieval peasant was used to a certain life. It was a very hard life, but they persisted. I’m sure they grumbled about how little control they had over their lives, but they must have also appreciated small pleasures and gotten on with things. On the other hand, there are aspects of our lives that medieval peasants probably wouldn’t even have thought to dream of.

So sometimes if I’m annoyed that work went long one day, I imagine a medieval peasant hearing about this and saying, “Yeah, but you aren’t farming for 12 hours a day, are you? Also, I live in a shack with a dirt floor and my children are dying of plague.”

This isn’t to say that just because we have it better than some people doesn’t mean there’s no need to try and improve things. It’s just a change in perspective that I find helpful for remembering how lucky I really am.

Next time you find yourself grumbling about something, join me in being thankful that we aren’t medieval peasants.

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