We now live in a world obsessed with speed, with doing everything faster, with cramming more and more into less and less time. Every moment of the day feels like a race against the clock. To borrow a funny yet true phrase from Carrie Fisher, “These days even instant gratification takes too long.” And if you think about how we to try to make things better, what do we do? No, we speed them up, don’t we? So we used to dial; now we speed dial. We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date and now we speed date.
But there’s a very serious point, and I think that in the headlong dash of daily life, we often lose sight of the damage that this roadrunner form of living does to us. We’re so marinated in the culture of speed that we almost fail to notice the toll it takes on every aspect of our lives — on our health, our diet, our work, our relationships, the environment and our community. And sometimes it takes a wake-up call to alert us to the fact that we’re hurrying through our lives, instead of actually living them; that we’re living the fast life, instead of the good life. And I think for many people, that wake-up call takes the form of an illness. You know, a burnout, or eventually the body says, “I can’t take it anymore,” and throws in the towel. Or maybe a relationship goes up in smoke because we haven’t had the time, or the patience, or the tranquility, to be with the other person, to listen to them.
And my wake-up call came through my grief after losing my mother just recently due to cardiac arrest. It came quick that I realized I didn’t had the chance to bond with her, tell her how much I love her and how much she meant to me. I didn’t have the time, or rather made time, to take her out for a treat, knowing how a simple snack, lunch or dinner outside our house’s kitchen would have brought so much joy to her, being a very simple, easy to please person. I was hammered a lesson real hard – that I have unconsciously chosen to live fast to keep up with work and my professional advancements and, in turn, missing out the people I love and who loved me too, especially my mom. Worst, derailed all the relationships I’ve painstakingly built over the years.
Now, I have two questions in mind. The first was, how did we get so fast? And the second is, is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Now, if you think about how our world got so accelerated, the usual suspects rear their heads. You think of, you know, urbanization, consumerism, the workplace, technology. But I think if you cut through those forces, you get to what might be the deeper driver, the nub of the question, which is how we think about time itself. In other cultures, time is cyclical. It’s seen as moving in great, unhurried circles. It’s always renewing and refreshing itself. Whereas in most parts of the world now, time is linear. It’s a finite resource; it’s always draining away. You either use it, or lose it. “Time is money,” as Benjamin Franklin said. And I think what that does to us psychologically is it creates an equation. Time is scarce, so what do we do? Well — well, we speed up, don’t we? We try and do more and more with less and less time. We turn every moment of every day into a race to the finish line — a finish line, incidentally, that we never reach, but a finish line nonetheless. We live by the culture that tells us that faster is always better, and that busier is best.
But why is it so hard to slow down? I think there are various reasons. One is that speed is fun, you know, speed is sexy. It’s all that adrenaline rush. It’s hard to give it up. I think there’s a kind of metaphysical dimension — that speed becomes a way of walling ourselves off from the bigger, deeper questions. We fill our head with distraction, with busyness, so that we don’t have to ask, am I well? Am I happy? Am I content with my job? Are politicians making good decisions on my behalf? Another reason — although I think, perhaps, the most powerful reason — why we find it hard to slow down is the cultural taboo that we’ve erected against slowing down. “Slow” is a dirty word in our culture. It’s a byword for “lazy,” “slacker,” for being somebody who gives up. You know, “he’s a bit slow.” It’s actually synonymous with being stupid. But is that really the case?
On the contrary, come to think of this: If we really delve into the deepest recesses of our hearts to pull out hardcore life questions, living fast will not be the best way to find the right answers. Maybe, the best way is to actually do the opposite – live slow.
As they say there are two sides to every story. Therefore, there exists a “bad” and a “good” slow. Conventional wisdom tells you that if you slow down, you’re road kill – that we can categorize as “bad slow”, however we cannot disregard the thought that by slowing down at the right moments, you may find that you do everything better; you eat better; you make love better; you exercise better; you work better; you live better – a “good slow”. And good slow is, you know, taking the time to eat a meal with your family, with the TV switched off. Or taking the time to look at a problem from all angles in the office to make the best decision at work. Or even simply just taking the time to slow down and savor your life.
So all of that said, the main question before me today: Is it possible to slow down? Honestly, I am still about to figure that out myself. All I wanted now is to feel a lot happier, healthier, more productive than I ever have. To feel like I’m living my life rather than actually just racing through it. And most importantly, to feel and experience that my relationships are a lot deeper, richer, stronger, leaving me with no regrets to bear later on in life.