Addicted to Speeding
“The busy man is never wise and the wise man is never busy,” writes Chinese philosopher Yutang Lin in The Importance of Living. He also states that Americans suffer from three vices: punctuality, efficiency and goal setting. My ... my ... my.
So when I began to forget appointments (more than one—more like one or two a week), wrote down reminders to myself but under the wrong date, invited friends for a Saturday brunch to meet special friends from out of town except I invited them one month too early, missed my 50th high school class reunion committee meeting, then I began to realize something was radically wrong. Either senile dementia was setting in FAST—or my life had become so overloaded that my emotional and psychosomatic systems were screaming, “No more! No more! STOP! STOP!”
Well, I’m not going to succumb to a self-diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s—at least not yet. I much prefer to lean into my common explanation for a string of personal misfires—You just have too much going on. And indeed, with a basement reconstruction stretching over a couple months, with painters and electricians coming and going, with new carpeting being laid, with the gardening season clamoring raucously for attention (I don’t know about your plants but my plants die if I don’t care for them), with travel to board meetings in California, with grandkid care, then with house guests, with chiropractic appointments twice a week to offset early stages of degenerative arthritis, with helping David host 21 people at the Shakespeare Festival in Canada for five days, then finally, with having a flood in the basement (along with 1000s of other Chicagoans), and having to do redo the whole basement again, I began to give myself a little grace. I did have too much going on!
I needed to put a brake on my fast/faster pace. I began my summer journey into ramping down by re-reading the book by Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. Practicing self awareness, I began to count the many moments of breathlessness in my days. I evaluated those “vices” of punctuality, efficiency, and goal-setting. I discovered I was speeding even when I drove under the speed limit! “Why are you rushing?” I began to demand of myself. “You’re on time. There’s no need to hurry. In fact, it looks as though you’ll arrive early.” After several weeks of this watchfulness, I concluded that I was addicted; I was on an adrenalin high, stimulated by the fast pace of our techno-driven, impersonal society that creates an impatience if we have to wait in line at the store, at our computers, or at a traffic light. “Instant gratification,” quipped actress/author Carrie Fisher, “takes too long.”
Honoré writes, “Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity.” No doubt in my mind, I want to go back to there, back to what musicians call the tempo giusto—the right speed. I am a contemplative who has lost her way this summer in material activism. I need to get back to the Center and stop rushing through my days. I want to get back to what Richard Rohr in his book The Naked Now calls “the Gospel life,” to become that kind of person who has eyes to see and who sees. It means making the major calling of my life a calling of prayer (I have been here before but it takes very little to nudge me out of this place of calm, carefulness, receptivity, stillness, intuitive knowing, where I am unhurried, patient, reflective and value quality over quantity.)
Rohr writes, “Most simply put … prayer is something that happens to you (Romans 8:26-27), much more than anything you privately do … Eventually you will find yourself preferring to say, ‘Prayer happened, and I was there’ more than ‘I prayed today.’ All you know is that you are being led, being guided, being loved, being used, being prayed through—and you are no longer in the driver’s seat. God stops being an object of attention like any other object in the world, and becomes at some level your own ‘I am.’ You start knowing through, with, and in Somebody Else. Your little ‘I Am’ becomes ‘We Are.’ Please trust me on this. It might be the most important thing I am saying in this book.”
This kind of living requires dedicated time. This requires a reduction of the items on my lists—not what I check off but what I refuse to place there in the first place. This requires that I cease to be addicted to speed, to fastness, to impatience with waiting. I need to get back to the primary language of God—silence, quietude, peacefulness, stillness.
A friend and I were talking recently about the need inherent in evangelicalism to measure success by productivity. My friend said, “No, really the measurement is fruitfulness.” And I laughed and then had to figure out what was so funny to me. Fruitfulness may be a better measurement for success than productivity because it is based more in the evaluations of others as to the meaningful role we have played in their lives then in our own importance determined according to the amount of accomplishments we can list. But fruitfulness is a measurement that can also be misconstrued by our human tendency to self-inflation: I am a productive person, therefore I have value. I am a fruitful person, therefore I have value. My ego, unfortunately, seems to be tempted to pride by any indices.
The only goal that I suspect will reduce my dependency on living by speed and diminish my natural haughtiness is to find God, the Circle whose Center is everywhere and whose Circumference is nowhere, and through original participation, through direct experience, live daily with a sense of wonder that I have found (at any time, in any way) that spiritual territory. I must always remember that busyness threatens to make me lose my way and to become estranged from the land of mysterious light (where the circumference is nowhere).
So these are some of the things I am doing to break my addiction to the speed of modern life:
You get the idea. I would love to hear how you are breaking your addiction to speed.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this “emotion” is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder, or stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed. —Albert Einstein
Listening Group Teleconference Training
"The only goal that I suspect will reduce my dependency on living by speed and diminish my natural haughtiness is to find God, the Circle whose Center is everywhere and whose Circumference is nowhere, and through original participation, through direct experience, live daily with a sense of wonder that I have found (at any time, in any way) that spiritual territory."
In Praise of Slowness
Book Jacket Blurbs:
“Part reportage, part manifesto, In Praise of Slowness is an engaging, well-written journey into the various ways that people around the globe have attempted to live more patiently.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Honoré offers a you-are-there view of global efforts to challenge the false god of speed … engaging and persuasive.”
—Christian Science Monitor
(CSM named In Praise of Slowness one of the best nonfiction books of 2004.)
“Shows us various methods to release ourselves … from what Baudelaire denounced as ‘the horrible burden of time,’ to break free of the Matrix-like illusion that we have no choice.”