It’s becoming a cliche these days to talk about the overwhelming pace of life, the combination of stress, overwork and information overload that assaults us every day, but sometimes we all need to slow down.
I’m as guilty of workaholism as the next person. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up at 5, fail to get back to sleep, and start working, especially when I’m staying in a hotel (which is often). I’m always trying to get things done, and I love crossing things off my to-do list.
I like moving quickly and fixing things.
I like the feeling when I’ve drunk too much coffee and my brain is moving faster than normal (although if someone invented a way of having that feeling without the heart palpitations they’d make a lot of money).
When I lived in London, and came back from a weekend back home in Sussex, I felt a quickening of my own pace as I went from the train to the Victoria line. I could feel myself getting back up to London speed. And I liked it. I get annoyed with dawdling walkers, which leads me to avoid Oxford Street if at all possible.
Even the title of my blog is a statement of intent about moving quickly and purposefully.
But one of my favourite feelings in life is the sense of not being in a hurry.
When I lived in Tokyo I’d often find myself in Shinjuku with time to kill before meeting a friend. Usually I’d find a cafe or a bar to sit in, but sometimes I’d just wait in the station, and watch people scurrying around frantically. There was something lovely about it, a sense of luxurious calm, as if I was watching a time-lapse film. I’d just stand there and feel the decadent joy of having time on my hands.
It’s a wonderful feeling on a warm evening, if you’ve finished work reasonably early and have time before some evening plans, to walk there at a gentle pace. Especially if your walk involves crossing the Thames.
Maybe I should start scheduling dead time, so that I can be early to meet someone in a pub, with a pint and a crossword, and just have some time to be free from input.
This ties in with Pico Iyer’s ideas about stillness - perhaps I’m just getting older, and no longer driven by excitement and novelty.
I’m not about to get myself a subscription to The Idler, or join a cloud-watching society, or become a member of the slow food movement, but it is important to remember that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”