Let’s All just Slow the $#@! Down!
Why has being busy become such a virtue in our culture? Eavesdrop on a chat or listen to a conversation on radio or podcast and notice how often people outdo each other with how busy they are. We can have little time to spend with those who mean the most to us and yet we still wear our busyness like a badge of honor. We don’t have time to nourish ourselves and our families with healthy meals. We don’t have time for loved ones struggling who need someone to talk to. We are so wound up we don’t sleep. No time to be still, relax, de-stress and connect with mind, body and spirit, to reflect and ponder, restore, imagine and day dream. To play, adventure and be creative. Maybe we have been on the treadmill so long, many of us actually fear that solitude and stillness will reveal how empty we and our lives are. Now don’t get me wrong. I struggle with this as much as anyone. I am presently in a pretty busy season of life. But I think we need more balance. I think endless busyness is problematic.
I fear we are losing our ability as a culture to have a good conversation and we are losing a sense of community. Social life becomes a conversational combat zone as we duel wielding swords of busyness. You often feel on your guard. Champions of the need to speed are often no fun to be around. They are overtly or secretly tired, cranky, overly judgmental and particularly resentful if they discover you don’t live a fast-paced life. They are poor listeners. They may make a pretense of being kind but it doesn’t come from an authentic heart space. One thing I have noticed in my own life is that if I cram too much in I have nothing in reserve for when life throws a curve ball - no buffer. And the thing is, life is guaranteed to do that. I don’t think I have met anyone that gets a free ride. Sure busy beavers may be doing great stuff. Impressive work. But what’s the point of saving the world if we lose our soul. If we become little by little less human in the good sense of that word.
So I am all for slowing life down. Leaving a buffer zone. So when the proverbial excrement hits the fan you have time to contemplate and recover. So we have time to be present when we or others find life tough. So we can be genuinely compassionate. So we can be less reactive, gentler, wiser and more loving. So we can thoughtfully choose the response that heals a conflict rather than escalates it. So we have spare time to respond to the pressing issues of our day. So we can live a simpler, more low waste life not just talk about environmentalism as an ideology. So we can write that letter that hopefully adds to many others convincing some influential person to make a positive change in the world. Or find time to thank someone for having made a positive change.
Which brings me to my second point. The need to keep things simple. So much of our busyness is because we want so much. We want to buy something we don’t need because we desire it or want to impress others. We want some fancy new gadget. A better house, a new car. As the saying goes: We spend money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like with stuff we don’t need. I am not self-righteously pointing the finger here. I struggle with this even though I have long acknowledged the problem and made progress in slowing down and simplifying focusing more on small, everyday joys and less acquisition.
We get addicted to the rush of purchasing. Problem is it just doesn’t last. Its as short-lived as a sugar high. And just like a sugar high, once is never enough. We must have more. A camping holiday is not enough. It has to be a cruise. A picnic is not enough, it has to be that new fancy restaurant. I have to wonder if all this wanting is in part to replace the simple joy and fulfillment of sharing time with people that love us and have our back. While we run the gauntlet of the treadmill of life, such people are in increasingly short supply, so we settle for more expensive stuff and experiences to numb the disquiet our un-examined existential angst causes. I think the powers that be like to keep us consuming too. It keeps the economy pumping. High demand means increased supply. Increased supply means more jobs. But our planet is just not coping with it. And neither are we. And lets be real, a lot of busyness can also be about avoiding doing stuff we don’t want to do. The real loving and selfless service others don’t see and we don’t get a social pat on the back for.
How much of what we have and want do we really need? How much of our busyness is unnecessary? What if we could slow down and simplify?