Thursday 20 May 2010

Deadly Resistance #4 - "I just don't have the time"

I love this cartoon - my friend Chris had it on his desk at work, and it always made me laugh. In a wry sort of way.

Modern life, for all its benefits and pleasures, can sometimes feel like a rat-race. For twelve years I lived in London, commuting daily, first into the city, then out of the city, to industrial and commercial estates along the M4 hi-tech corridor. R and I rented a flat together, got a car, got a mortgage. We worked long hours. We ate out. At the weekends, we went shopping. Bought stuff.

And we never stopped. Never stood still. Looking back, that period of our lives is just a blur. What did we do with our time? It seemed we never had any. People talk about the modern symptom of being "cash-rich, time-poor". I'm not sure we were ever cash-rich, but time-poor, yep, I can relate to that.

Lack of time prevents us from doing. It can prevent us from getting involved with our communities, from sharing our time with others, from joining movements like Transition. And it can limit our ability to do what we know to be right. If I'm perpetually in a rush, it can seem like a reasonable thing to just jump in the car and zip over to Asda to get a loaf of bread. "I just don't have time to walk there," I'll tell myself. Food becomes "fast food", "convenience food", our streets becomes places we rush through to get to work, to the shops, to somewhere else, anywhere else; our neighbours just people that we wave to, briefly, as we hurry on our journey. Must dash. Gotta go. People to meet, things to do.

Modern life caters for, and perpetuates, this constant motion. Feeds it and feeds off it.

When I became a parent, I swapped one form of time-poverty for another. Parents of young children rarely get time to themselves, or even time to think. Yet, in a very real sense, my children forced me to slow down, to approach life at their pace. They're not interested in deadlines, they're only interested in the moment, and at its best, that moment is simply about being with you, playing, reading, cuddling, just being.

And so my children made me, happily, reappraise my own relationship with time. And if I can slow down, anyone can. It doesn't have to be children, of course. If there's something in your life that encourages you to slow down - a hobby, an interest, a commitment to someone else - then embrace it, and you may find your life the richer for it.

It doesn't always work out quite right. I have a demanding job, a family. I'm still very busy. I'm not as active a Transitioner as I'd like to be. But I've made the time, and made a start, like being part of this Blog. Making a positive choice to slow down allows me to take more notice of what's happening around me, make better choices, travel more lightly on the earth. Sure, I still have days where I feel like I'm a rat in the modern maze. But less often. And the quiet days, the still days, are the more precious for it.

The August 2009 edition of National Geographic had an article about the Bedouin of the Arabian peninsula. I read:
Their culture, rooted in the nomad's need for perpetual motion, values the relative luxury of stillness and calm
We could do worse than learn to do the same.

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