After we’d been back a month or so from Asia, it didn’t take long before I was firmly entrenched again in the pace of life here. The first couple of weeks back a friend had asked me what my plans were for spring break. I’d answered happily, “Nothing. Just enjoy Vancouver.” And I meant it – just completely enjoy whatever we found ourselves doing. But that sentiment quickly faded and was replaced with Must Make Plans.
There is so much on offer in Western cities – music, concerts, plays, activities from circus acrobatics to ukulele lessons and everything else, a plethora of food to try in restaurants and cafes, talks that can’t be missed, things your kids must see, plus hiking trails, skiing, biking, sports galore, etc etc. Consequently we find ourselves racing all over the place to all sorts of places Because They’re There and Because We Can. There isn’t as much sitting doing very little of anything as there is in less developed places.
Despite having all the modern appliances that were supposed to free up our time, when you return to Western life with all these accoutrements and more, we have even less free time than ever before. Modern life has brought many wonderful things, yet at the same time can our nervous systems truly cope with the pace? And where is the joy in all this speed? In knocking off yet another item on the list? What is a life done quickly?
We humans are funny creatures. We are amazingly adaptive; yet that is both a curse and a blessing. We can seemingly adapt to the speed, yet is that what we should be doing?
It’s been said many times that we have our most creative moments when doing nothing in particular. Yet one truly has to make a concerted effort to do nothing in modern life. When we think we are doing nothing, we are often still doing something – surfing the web, planning the next day’s activities, sunbathing. Telling someone that we’re “doing nothing” is almost an embarrassment in the West. And even if we actually are doing nothing, it might be we start thinking we’re going to do nothing so that we can be more creative. Because we’re just so darn goal-oriented.
And the irony is the more we do, the less we actually deeply enjoy what we are doing. If each day had less in it, the things that are on offer we would then find more satisfying and be filled with more gratitude for them. But can we return to this state of mind? The malaise of modern life is not easy to avoid – and it seems that doing more of something exciting would be the cure for it. But it is the opposite. Only in doing less of everything will we find again our natural joy.