Being Present: More Haste Equals Less Life
By Katie Hurrey
We live our lives at 100mph and, in a world where even coffee can be mobile-ordered, the need for human interaction is fading into oblivion. Being busy is all the rage and since, according to the laws of attraction, we all live the life we want, many of us are attracted to a life of stress; of living at speed.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the road. Driving in Miami can be a precarious, dangerous, anger-inducing feat. Everyone has somewhere more important to be, their journey a higher priority than yours, turn signals are unused, and ignored if they are. For the first time today on my way to the airport I saw a sign over the freeway informing drivers of the law of using turn signals when changing lanes…Hallelujah! Time to teach Miami about the unidentified lever on the steering wheel!
The more saddening part is that when drivers do pull on that elusive lever, instead of opening a gap for the car to change lanes, drivers often speed up just to impede its progress. If there is a complete lack of courtesy on the road surely it follows that day-to-day manners are becoming non-existent. If we cannot act with generosity then please can we at least obey stop signs?
I certainly got caught up in the Miami Driving Offensive, just as much in a rush as everyone else, muttering about ignorant drivers who are disobeying the rules of the road, or offenders who are swerving and obviously distracted by the urgency to send that text or make that call – another law Miami is either unaware of, or choosing to ignore. Unaware driving is an epidemic here!
I have an attachment to my phone just as most of the world does. I rarely go anywhere without my link to instant communication, I have become dependent on its information, needing to receive love from far corners of the globe the moment it is sent. I recently saw a collection of photos by US photographer Eric Pickersgill named “Removed” where hand-held devices have been photoshopped out of everyday scenes, leaving the subjects gazing at their empty hands with vacant expressions, ignoring their surroundings and people in their immediate proximity. Although the project seemed a little staged (and this could simply be my reluctance to recognize its drastically somber imagery), the message was poignant and clear – if we don’t start some real life interaction we’re going to lose all social skills and be reduced to broadcasting self-indulgent, vetted photos to (probably falsely) exclaim how happy, successful and busy we are in place of personal conversation.
Do our jobs encourage the haste? Mine occupies my mind ten hours a day, six days a week; reviewing choreography then teaching it to various sized casts of singers dancers and actors. The twelve days allotted to set each production means that performers are required to soak up choreography, staging and direction at an extremely expedited pace, usually learning three very different shows in quick succession. They must arrive with the tools necessary to execute the choreography technically and be stylistically versatile – there is no spare time for basic instruction.
In this corporate world time is money, and the expectation is for a well-performed, beautifully sung and danced show be presented every time, in very little time. This heightened pressure exists across many industries, workers staying at their desks late into the evening, or taking work home to keep up. It has never been more important to switch off, to meditate, or pursue an activity that provides release. The problem is finding time for it – I am reminded of the Zen proverb:
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day unless you’re busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
In a life that is overly packed it is difficult to find even ten minutes to clear the mind – of course, ten minutes of meditation could easily replace those ten minutes of scrolling Facebook, so why is it so difficult to implement?
Recently, I’m trying to be present, to look around me, to observe behaviour, to learn something (and not just what my ‘friends’ ate for breakfast, thank you Facebook!) The need for social interaction is hopefully still alive and well, and not just the electronic kind. “I’m too busy” can’t perpetually be the answer to real life invitations and perhaps we should begin to examine our relationships if the most important connections are in the palm of our hands instead of sharing physical space. It’s time I, for one, begin to approach life with a little less haste before time flies….