Going placidly amid the noise and haste; And remembering what peace there may be in silence

About a month ago my eldest daughter made a surprising and insightful comment about the way I conduct myself and my life. After bringing my two grandchildren to visit my husband and I here on our property (40 blissful acres of nature’s beauty), and after having meandered about with me while I prepared lunch, strolled around on a bushwalk and generally enjoyed my space and my family, she looked at her watch for the ‘n’th time. I knew she was anxious about the time I was taking to do things as she herself was on a tight schedule and needed to be back in town by four o’clock.


For a moment my lovely girl looked perplexed. Then she announced, ‘Mum, you know you slow time down, don’t you? It’s as if you force the rest of us to stop and smell the roses instead of rushing about. I always think you take an incredibly long time to accomplish anything. Yet you don’t. You actually slow time down for the rest of us.’


I’d never quite thought of it like that, though I’ve long been aware that I do indeed meander and potter through life. I’m also aware that amid all this pottering and meandering, I can calmly achieve significant things. I’ve never been a noisy person, nor one who moves with more haste and less care. I attribute some of this to my father, who would often say (quietly and calmly), ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.’ The saying, I think, comes from the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and a more frenetic creature one is unlikely to find in literature or elsewhere.


In a world which is becoming more and more fast-paced, people like me are apt to be left behind in the rush, hearing accusations of ‘lazy’, ‘hopeless’, ‘slow-witted’, or any number of inaccurate judgements. There is no rule written in the book of life that dictates we must be frantically busy to be effective or valuable. In fact, a quiet perusal of the outcomes of all this modern-day stress will tell us otherwise. It has always seemed to me that the loud, bustling types are also those who make the most mistakes, having to backtrack and repeat tasks in order to bring them to fruition. They also cause unlimited stress for others, their forgetfulness and the chaos they trail in their wake meaning that everything takes longer because of all their fussing and blustering. And all too frequently there is relationship fall-out as tempers fray and angry words are spoken in haste. Blame seems to be the name of the game.


While I was born in 1960, I’m very much a child of the 70’s. All that lying awake at night with the transistor radio (remember the ‘tranny’ anyone?) crackling ‘The Desiderata’, or Cat Stevens (‘just relax and take it easy’) and similar themes, into my ear in the wee hours, must have hit its particular mark. I embody peace and harmony, and don’t for a moment believe that it leads to lesser achievements. On the contrary, I know that it leads to much greater heights when it comes to spiritual and emotional development, and that this awakening leads to awareness and concern for those around us and for the very earth itself.


The great spiritual traditions of the world all promote the wisdom that it is fools who talk too much, that words have power, and that untold damage can be done when we speak and act in haste. As I look around me, I am saddened by the evidence that we are increasingly living in an age of foolishness.


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