“One of the most tragic things about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.” Dale Carnegie
For many years I lead a very fast life. Like most of us, I struggled with too long working hours, too many obligations, and too short time for myself.
Yet, there were weirdos around me who seemed to live peacefully and blissfully.
I wanted to find out what they were doing differently, so I could live happily, too.
And I was going to. At the end of a surprising journey.
My Misfortunate Spectacular Life
Achieving serenity wasn’t easy, though, because I started as neurotically as anyone can.
I was young and naive, and juggled fervently between three lecturing jobs, all of which seemed essential to my glorious career progression. Or so I thought. My grateful workplaces thought so, too.
I worked six days a week from dawn to dusk, and felt very productive. Yet, when I was getting to my frozen night meal, I realized that I was totally depressed. One of the reasons was that I forgot the trivial issue of eating and drinking all day long.
But there were other reasons as well. Not having time for friends, or for falling in love, were two of the obvious ones.
Still, though I was pretty miserable, it didn’t occur to me that I actually had no life.
Unfortunately, no one around me seemed to notice this saddening fact either.
Bumping into the Fortunate Life of the Poorest
Then I realized that I should go to India. A book which fell from my overcrowded bookshelves hinted that although the people there are poor, they’re happy. The thought that the solution to my depression lies in that third-world country was ridiculous. I just had to refute it.
So there I went, on an organized tour, seeking as much enlightenment as I could between the long delicious vacation-meals which were the main occupation of my companions.
Amazingly, I found that the Indians were indeed happy people, though most of them were as poor as temple mice. Recognizing a hope of becoming happier, I stayed in India after the tour ended, and kept bothering the friendly people wherever I got. Coincidently, they always had time for philosophical conversations about the meaning of life.
Shockingly, money didn’t seem to bother them too much. Their cultural aspiration was to conquer their inner desires, not the world that can satisfy them. They seemed to accept Mahatma Gandhi’s saying,
“I do not believe that multiplication of wants, and machinery contrived to supply them, is taking the world a single step nearer its goal.”
Like the Mahatma, they thought that
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”
Therefore, they were busy smiling, conversing, napping, honking cheerfully, and enjoying their abundance of free time, and their delicious Indian food.
They lead a different life from the life I knew.
A slower life.
A happier life.
A life I wanted.
Making My Own Fortune
The prolonged eating of tasty food in flowering gardens, facing magnificent Himalayan views, turned even me into a much happier person. All of a sudden I had time for pleasures like talking, sleeping, wandering, and peeping at life curiously, trying to figure out what I really wanted.
What I truly wanted wasn’t a career. It wasn’t money. It was time to enjoy the trifles I was doing.
I finally comprehended that stress is not an enjoyable feeling. It ruins anything it touches. Even the most pleasant activities cause us distress when we have to do them hastily. (Hurried sex, for example, is not that fun, as we all know just too well.)
We can’t enjoy life while running through it. We have to experience our sensations, not to ignore them, in order to enjoy ourselves. The bright side is that practically everything is enjoyable when we experience it slowly. Even dishwashing. Even without a dishwasher.
When I came back home, I understood that I didn’t have to end my addictive R and R and work my tail off. I could cut my jobs down and have long breakfasts instead.
So I quit my two more-prestigious jobs and kept only my work with children, which was the satisfying one. It left me enough time for long delicious meals, and long conversations with my bored friends. It also enabled me to start writing, a dream I had for years but never had the time, or the guts, to fulfill.
Moreover, I moved to a small studio apartment, and the money I saved enabled me to carry out another banal suppressed dream: traveling the world.
The more I slowed my life down, the happier I turned out to be.
Over the years, I’ve traveled to dozens of countries, first by myself and then with my spouse and children, and we enjoyed every minute of it. More often than not.
I still slow my family’s life down, by doodling, cooking, and gossiping together, and it feels good.
Too good to be untrue.
Distributing Fortune Around
Slowing down in a fast world is quite clashing.
Yet, it can turn our life from suffering into pleasure. It sort of brings us back to the Garden of Eden, and it’s not only about making love, though the sex surely improves dramatically. It’s about better relationships, parenthood and friendships. Better health and nutrition, (i.e., better food,) and, evidently, happiness.
Slowing down can bring us the life we always dreamed about.
And our dream life is worth examination.
It’s worth checking up what takes too much of our time right now. Is it a job requiring crazy hours? Spending alarmingly much time in front of the TV or the Internet? Driving the kids (or ourselves) to too many not-that-important activities?
Our dream life is worth making some changes.
Freeing some time.
Enjoying what we choose.
To gain a delightful life.
To give more of ourselves to our loved ones, and improve their lives as well.
To empower the people around us to slow down, and advance their lives, too.
To have our share in making the world less stressed and aggressive, and more peaceful.
One inactivity at a time.
One pleasure at a time.
A shortened version of this post was previously published on Positively Positive.