The Beat of a Different Drum

Just finished something ?

Great – why not take a short break.

There, did you enjoy it ?

Now what’s next ?

How about making those phone calls, sending that text message, responding to those emails or updating your social media ? How about checking in on a few blogs ? Maybe you could update your ‘to-do list’, your ‘bucket list’, your ‘reading list’, your ‘films to watch list’ or your ‘wish list’ ? Maybe you could finish reading all those 1001 Things Before you Die books – places to go, foods to eat, paintings to see ? Have you finished watching that new DVD box set you got for Christmas yet, or that new video game, or for that matter that old DVD box set, or that old video game ? Did you get round to listening to the last couple of albums you downloaded, reading that book you bought or organising your photos ?

Or you could do some of the more important stuff you’ve been putting off: sorting out your bank accounts, or the phone, the internet, the electricity, the TV, the heating, the cars, the insurance, the mortgage, your subscriptions or your memberships. Then you can walk the dog, spend time reading with the kids, cut the grass, tidy the house, do the washing, sort the recycling, do the shopping, book the dentist, plan your holiday, make lunch for tomorrow, cook diner for tonight, catch up with your friends, phone your Mum, get some exercise, keep up to date with the news and buy everyone thoughtful presents for Christmas.

Make sure you don’t forget to do some work, and get enough sleep !

More things to do, more rushing, more multi-tasking, more obligations, more commitments, more things to organise, coordinate, choose, pay for and maintain.

Any of this sound familiar ?

If you’re getting stressed just reading this, then it’s probably far too familiar for comfort.

For the last century and a half our pace of life in the West has been speeding up – driven mostly by advances in technology and associated cultural change. I’m sure most of us would agree that this technological advancement is a good thing – saving us time and effort, liberating women from the home, doing away with drudgery and providing us with more leisure time.

So why do so many of us feel increasingly under pressure, unfulfilled and worn out ?

The Slow Movement suggests that although our technology and surroundings have changed, our essential needs and nature remain the same. We increasingly neglect them in our constant personal and societal drive towards doing more and more, and doing it faster and faster.

It’s not just our homes that need decluttering, it’s our whole lives.

Henry David Thoreau, the American writer and thinker, escaped New England society to go and live for two years in a small wooden cabin by Walden Pond, Massachusetts. He recorded his thoughts in the book Walden; or Life in the Woods, published in 1854, which went on to have a significant influencing effect on both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoreau wanted to detach himself from much of the clamour of modern life – though not leave it completely, and learn how to live a simpler, less stressful, more connected and ultimately more meaningful existence.

Many others have sought similar detachment in order to find simplicity and meaning, both before Thoreau, and since – including Christopher McCandless, whose journey into the Alaskan wilderness formed the basis for the recent book and film Into the Wild.

Thoreau used the word balance to describe his objective for life – something we all have to define for ourselves.

Perhaps the challenge for those of us wrestling with the rhythm and trappings of our own lives – is how we can also achieve balance ? Both for our own happiness, and considering our footprint on the planet.

It would also be nice if we could find a way to do it where we’re already planted – rather than needing to spend two years in a cabin somewhere, or hitchhiking off to Alaska :)


Photo from Timehettler via Flickr

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