My friend Reed just returned from France for 6 months and he had similar sentiments. The French work week is 35 hours max and there, meals and down time were socially thriving, whereas in America both are stripped of enjoyment
so as to not distract us from our goal of more work.
He said that contrary to stereotypes, the French were not fat (not like they are in New Orleans; we had once been labeld the fourth fattest city in the US), lazy, or unproductive. We trade comfort for modernity. Sure, we have newer, bigger cars, wider streets, bigger cities, more options. For these we have traded the very thing that makes life worth living: spare time. Or worse, we have recycled spare time into less stressful but still productive time.
This one speaker at Cornerstone asked us to write down our time pressures, all the things that demand our time. How much did we have that was not spoken for? When we who have families spend time with our kids, how much of it is at some level of consumption, either by the media (movies, TV, music) or accumulation (food, shopping, entertainment like amusement parks and arcades)? Do we ever get together to celebrate anything that is not already an official holiday? Do we always need a reason to take time off for ourselves, to say no to committments? Do we really need two cars, 3 spare bedrooms, or 20 pairs of jeans?