Being Over Doing: Resisting the Cult of Speed

If there’s one thing our culture values, it is speed. Fast food. Fast cars. Fast internet. The more quickly and efficiently anything can be done, the better.

Yet there are few things more destructive to authentic human experience than speed. Hurriedness is not the father of wisdom.

Doing things rapidly causes us to devalue them. Then again, perhaps we hurry because we do not value things already. It is not normal to want to rush something beautiful or important, something you love. Only unimportant things are rushed, and it says a great deal about the modern mindset that we want everything from conversations to food preparation to be nearly instant.

Life is not a race to be completed but a journey to be savored. Yet, most of us are too busy to frantically fidgeting to really know the essence of anything. We rush from here to there, never stopping to assess why we do what we do—and missing a great many things along the way. Moreover, we accumulate things more quickly than we can enjoy them, valuing the process of getting more than what we get. But what is the point of having more if we appreciate it less?

Speed is the enemy of contemplation. The happiest people on earth are those who accomplish the least but experience the most. From the popular perspective, perhaps, they are wasting their lives and potential. They could be doing so much more. For the entire value of the human person is now measured by his or her output and productivity—by his or her market value. But the truly wise know that being is more important than doing. We are not measured by what we can produce, but who we are.

A rapid pace of living leads to a shallowness of experience, and it extinguishes the one thing we owe God above all—humbly grateful praise. If we see all of life as a chore to be completed or an obstacle to put behind us as quickly as possible, we will never truly appreciate anything. And if we appreciate nothing, we will arrive at the end of our days exhausted and embittered, with little to look back upon with grateful hearts.

We must resist the cult of speed, for it degrades our humanity. We are not automatons or processing units. We are human. We are living souls—dust of the earth brought mystically to life with the divine breath. Our value is not measurable by statistics of consumption or production. We are creatures made to gaze at the world like children,wide-eyed with wonder. We are creatures made to praise.

Take time and slow down. Invest yourself in what you do, whether it be working or playing, eating or praying. Notice and give attention and concentrate. For appreciation is the wellspring of joy and thanksgiving, and appreciation is the fruit of patient and attentive experience.

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly.

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8 Responses to “Being Over Doing: Resisting the Cult of Speed”

  1. Very ‘Benedictine’ in spirit. Stopping to smell the roses and rejoice in what the Lord provides for us, whether washing dishes, working or playing should be our ultimate life goal.

    John Burzynski Obl. OSB

  2. David Varella Reply

    This is very true. When I was deployed to Kuwait, one thing I enjoyed was that everything seemed to slow down. There wasn’t terribly much to do besides eat, work, exercise, sleep, and repeat. Even the speed limits on the military post were much slower than here in the US. It was an awful culture-shock when I returned stateside after completing my tour. The very first thing I noted was that everyone seemed in a mad rush, over-eager to get here or there, constantly having to be in motion. I had to let my wife drive me around for the first few weeks after returning home because it was so frustrating and I would get so angry. Now I’ve become somewhat re-accustomed to it, but I still long to live in the country, where there is a slower – or different – pace.

  3. David, you must not have driven off-post! For those Kuwaiti drivers, speed is all that matters. I definitely agree about the routine nature of military life.

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