Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Slowing the speed of life

Quick preface: I'm overwhelmed by election coverage on this fine evening. As fascinating and important as this process is, the months of wall-to-wall coverage punctuated by the inevitable acceleration in coverage leading up to tonight have combined to take the joy out of what should otherwise be a quiet evening at home with my wife. Besides, I'm Canadian. So I'm declaring a moratorium on watching U.S. news on the telly - at least until the ultimate non-journalist superstar, Jon Stewart, comes on at 10 - and wish to instead share this somewhat more serene post with you. Enjoy.

I've always felt that life moves too quickly, and that we’d manage to squeeze more out of our time on this planet if we learned to slow down and enjoy the view.

As a child, I remember watching a television commercial about a headache pain reliever. It showed a stressed-out woman chasing a bus, then grabbing her head in pain after she missed it. Ominous music played in the background, and my first real impression of a hectic, adult world was formed.

I remember asking my Mom if the real world was like that. I think I was four or five years-old, and I thought life was as relaxing as my Lego-filled world. Typical for a child, I had no idea how fast people need to run just to stay in the same place once they hit adulthood.

My mother spoke soothingly about how it was just a commercial, and how advertisers always exaggerated to prove their point. She confirmed that, yes, the typical day for the typical person wasn’t composed of end-to-end bus chases and escalator leaps. That there was still plenty of opportunity for regular folks to chill out and, like me, play with Legos if they so wished.

Satisfied with her answer, I returned to playing on a floor strewn with toys, still mostly oblivious to the realities of the broader world around me.

Regardless, the image from that television commercial stayed in my head. As I grew older, I sensed things speeding up on me, and I felt I needed to run faster just to keep pace. From taking a bus cross-town to get to class on time to dragging mountains of books from one class to another and juggling school, work, and writing assignments, my life started looking more and more like that still-remembered commercial from my childhood.

Not that I’m a lazy person – quite the opposite, I never seem to know when to turn the darn machine in my head off – but I’ve always lamented the fact that I never seem to have enough time to just sit and think. Or, even better, to sit and do absolutely nothing. Vacations are a perfect example: I like to sit in a comfy chair on a beach or under a tree and do nothing more challenging than read a book or stare at the waves while my brain cooks up funny story ideas. And the idea-generation part is optional: usually while sitting in a vegetative state in a relaxing place on the planet, the old noggin will simply decide what I want to eat during my next meal. Not exactly a processor-intensive activity.

When I watch those cruise commercials where everyone’s busy running from rock climbing to sailboarding to jet skiing before returning to the ship for another night of overeating, I’ve got to conclude that they will all need vacations from their vacations after they get back home. Anything requiring a calendar, datebook, watch or any sort of time/date-based registration is emphatically not a vacation. Simply watching those spots on TV only convinces me still further that people don’t get it, and need to learn how to ease back and actually live.

ABC News is running a fascinating piece entitled Slow Down! You Move Too Fast. It discusses a number of perspectives related to this issue, notably how one can actually accomplish a slower, more meaningful lifestyle while still achieving the things that we rush so aggressively to acquire and keep.

I'm still exceeding the speed limit in the passing lane and lamenting the fact that I haven't taken the time to enjoy the two-lane roads that wind by the rolling farmland that dominates the countryside in our part of the world. But I'll do whatever it takes to get there. Maybe reading this article will help me get my start.

1 comment:

Trillian said...

Great post and a good reminder. Thanks!