Thursday, 6 October 2011

Go Slow

A snail's life can't be much fun. Plodding along, getting nowhere fast. Scrutinized closely a snail doesn't appear in any rush. Just taking its time to the next stop, on the road to somewhere. The snail, a symbol of slow and a re-emerging movement. Despite its growing popularity, a snail's pace is seen as derogatory. Used as a joke if you choose to opt out of this 24/7 society. Why go slow when you can go fast and multi-task? The opening lines from William Henry Davies poem is the question I'd like to address: “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”

No time to stop and stare is our chief complaint. No time to jump off the merry-go-round, pull out of the rat race. Speed and busyness perceived as necessary and good. The pressure to cram everything in – work, leisure, family and friends, whilst keeping up with 24hr news, reviews and gossip. “All must have access to the worldwide web, email address, and Facebook” should become a public declaration. Isn't this pressure to do, a pressure we put on ourselves? There's a German term for it: Freizeitstress. We haven't a clue what to do with our spare time and fear it. Anxious or guilty if it's empty and stressed if it's overbooked.

Living in a perpetual rush is like being aboard a runaway train. Exciting to begin with, always somewhere to be, people to see and things to do. Running to a tight schedule. Pace of life quickened up. Any free time must be filled. Failing however to apply the brakes leads to crash and burn. Hitting the buffer is never fun, I'm sure most commuters would agree. This emergency stop forces you to assess, even change track and career. Flexi-work, a sought after employment, yet despised by those holding a season ticket. In a tone of insult, these full-time passengers provoke by calling this workforce “part-timers”.

Down shifting is a tough choice. The initial hard graft to balance all life's components, but the quality of life you receive in return is worth it. Why wait for steam to billow out to adopt a slower tempo? Going slow is not reserved for the rich or senior citizens. It's about making time to take stock. Our current pace destroys this chance to be contemplative. Slowing down encourages us to look at the way we live and consider what's important. I'm not suggesting turning into a snail is liberating. A snail's life can be inefficient and frustrating, but taking a break helps you to connect to your appropriate pace.

The closing lines of William Henry Davies' poem thus concludes the argument: “A poor life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”