Gord Turner: In praise of a quieter lifestyle

Castlegar columnist encourages people to slow down

In the days when many people still wrote letters, I received a warning letter from a friend of mine. He upbraided me for being so busy, rushing this way and that, leaving one meeting for another session, and jamming one responsibility up against the next.

He told me I was too busy to think about what I was doing, and I would likely end up in a traffic accident and possibly dead. He said he was warning me because his wife had the same propensity to be over-busy, always on the go, and she had a major accident and then a nervous breakdown. It took weeks for her to recover, and even then she wanted to get back to her gruelling schedule.

I did, however, stay quite busy, but over time, I adjusted and wasn’t dashing willy-nilly to the next task. I began to create time in between activities, and I admit I spent a lot of time on my deck gazing out at the nearby mountains, searching among the stars, and contemplating my own navel.

In the smaller communities we live in, I believe we can get some of the relaxation time that keeps us sane. We can stop in the midst of our work and sit back and reflect. We can set aside our smart phones and iPads and spend time thinking about what we’re doing. We can drive home at a reasonable speed without trying to outrace every driver on the road.

People in major cities may not have the luxury of finding time and space to relax. It’s go, go, go from the moment they get up, get the kids off to daycares and school, and drive 42 miles to work in traffic rush conditions. You’d think they’d want quiet while traveling, but along with the hum of a swiftly moving vehicle, many of these people have the radio turned up high.

We clearly have a frenzied lifestyle in which we’re afraid to waste a minute. We get angry if we have to wait on appointments for more than a few moments. We get impatient if our computers don’t operate efficiently. We go through out emails and text messages while having lunch, and we peruse our bank statements while waiting for buses or walking along trails.

The worst is that we take our smartphones and laptops on trips and vacations. Somehow we feel it’s wrong to be disconnected from the digital universe. Many people check their smartphones every few minutes — something might have happened or they might have missed a phone call or text message. I have heard about young people sleeping with their cell phones. What a way to get ready for this zany overactive world we live in!

We owe it to ourselves to find quiet time alone every day. Many corporations are realizing how hectic our lives are at home, on the way to work, and at work, and thus they have programmed rest or stop time into the workday. Apparently, it’s necessary to keep people from burning out and using all their sick time.

It’s necessary also because we are being bombarded everywhere with noise, noise, noise. I’m not just talking about planes flying overhead or traffic rushing down Columbia. I’m talking about music turned up too loud in restaurants and automobiles, TVs blaring in waiting rooms and labs, TVs everywhere in airports and golf shops, and music to fill your time while you’re holding the phone to your ear waiting for that all-important call.

We used to call it elevator music, but now it pervades various places where we should be able to sit and relax. What would be wrong about being in a room anywhere without a TV yapping away or a radio or CD player keeping us company? Many people I know can’t exist unless there’s noise somewhere about them. That’s a sad commentary on where we’re at as a civilization. Add to that our constant need to be doing, and you have a society that could use a break — a big quiet one.

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