Have you ever tried to stop or slow the craziness in your life long enough to consider the heightened pace our culture has entered?
Do you ever watch any of the old television sitcoms, say something like the Andy Griffith or Dick Van Dyke shows? Maybe something more recent, but not too current (e.g. Friends, or something along those lines)? If you have never seen the older programs, especially those from the sixties, try to view a few episodes and then ask yourself (again): Why are we in such a rush?
With this, I am not speaking about having a job/career/profession, because I am convinced that work helps create healthier people. Instead, I am talking about our current inability to slow down and enjoy a time of relaxation. While work is critical to our overall health (and I am firm believer that we should continue to work at something productive until we cannot), it is also important to have periods of calm and leisure.
Most have heard comparisons of our current culture to that of the 50s and 60s, some raise moral and faith issues, while others speak of societal topics, especially equal treatment for all. Both sides of that discussion are important. We should examine the moral and faith issues of our day and ask ourselves if we are on the correct path, and we should explore the critical societal problems we encounter, and in doing so, sometimes, it is wise to look at how people did things in the past, to put a gauge to how we are performing today.
I believe there is something at play that many do not notice when they compare our present-day era to the 50s and 60s. If you listen to those who lived during those times, and if you consider how television shows and the media, in general, portrayed life during those decades, something else comes to mind. The daily lives then, no matter its faults (and there were many), and no matter the good points (also many), was slower, and generally more relaxed than today. Sure, people worked long hours, and they had busy schedules, and on a national level, the later years of the 60s were far from calm. But none, it seems, compare to the outright race we run today. There was time then, to sit and relax and just be calm for hours at a time, without scheduled events beckoning to us. Those living then did not have computers, cell phones, texting, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. Most homes had one television, and the majority had at least one radio. Baseball and football games watched on television or listened to on radio were events for fans then.
When was the last time you had a few hours just to do nothing? I am talking about time enough to read that book you have on your nightstand, or time enough to try that recipe that’s called out to you for months, maybe years? Imagine just grabbing a comfy folding chair and sitting in-front of your home, or perhaps on a balcony of your apartment, and watch the world go by without feeling guilty that you are missing something on your 50 levels of technology?
Two of my previous blog posts discussed reasons to return to regular faith services; however, as I write this, it strikes me that for many people going to church has likely become just another item on their list that must be done—and when our schedules fill, we often shove things like church off the list. When important things like faith become a scheduling burden, many will just dump it for something else. This is all a shame because I don’t know why we fill out lives with so many stress-inducing activities. No matter how many events we cram into our lives, we will still have a finite number of days and years to live—when do we take the time to enjoy the life God has given?
Returning to those old sitcoms (and yes, I know most did not adequately represent the world as we’d want it today), consider the pace they lived. Andy Griffith and Barney Fife would sit on the porch for hours doing nothing but watching the world go by. Sometimes Andy would play guitar, while other times they’d become tired, almost sleepy as they gave themselves over to a full restorative relaxation. It is not a stretch to wonder if we are better off for all our hurriedness and rushing through life.
I am guilty of this too. My life is filled with events stretching from dawn until later into the evening, and finding time to write posts for this blog, and for the various book projects I am working on, is a daunting task. I do, however, often pause and ask myself why I am so busy and why I am moving at such a crazy fast pace. I am not proud of the fact that I have no firm answer for my own busyness, other than to say I am determined to find a way to slow down, even a slight decrease would be a healthy change.
We remain in a window during which many are working on resolutions for the new year—about 80% of those will fail by February. Perhaps this topic can entice some of us to create a new resolution to slow down, just a little, maybe enough to spend an extra hour of fun time with our kids (not for homework and task oriented activities, just fun), or perhaps we can go radical by shutting off all our devices (including video games and televisions). A board game played, or a time sitting around talking, or an hour or two of everyone reading a book (preferably not on an eBook for just this time you’ve set aside).
This might sound contradictory, so please have patience with me: It takes work to be less busy. We will need to commit to doing less and be happy with that. At first, we will find it difficult to break from our run-run-run, busy-busy-busy, technology-technology-technology, life most of us live. For most, a fast-paced existence is normal, and it will require a vision of a slower life—if you have no craving to create down time, this will not work for you.
I have no desire to return to the 50s and 60s, nor do I look upon them as some utopia, especially since that era also had many problems. However, I am not sure where you stand on slowing down, but I sure wouldn’t mind having a couple nights a week when I stop all the running and just live for the moment, in a deliciously slow way. And worry not, when your short respite is over, the crazy pace of our modern world will rush back in to fill the slowness with a wave of events. But if you make this a habit, soon you’ll be able to sneer back at that craziness knowing you are building regular time away from the frantic pace we have set. Let’s be a bunch of porch sitters and carve out time to watch the world go by in our own way—those who see us won’t have a clue why we aren’t doing something productive, but that’s okay, we’ll know we are doing all that is require of that moment, and we might just find ourselves breaking into a real smile. 🙂
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