“When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care
about it and you want to get on to other things.”
– Robert M. Pirsig
I’ve been re-reading Persig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance over the past couple of months. I breezed through it the first time, but now I’m reading slowly and paying more attention.
A newsroom colleague lent me the book in the decade after it was published, and some of Pirsig’s philosophies have struck a chord in the years since. The 40-year-old book is based around a journey (aren’t all stories, really?) but just as the author states; the book actually has little to do with maintaining a motorcycle and even less with Zen Buddhism.
The book explores society’s relationship with each other, with technology, self-satisfaction and Persig’s profound philosophies on life’s fundamental questions.
An engaging book, I first read it over a weekend and many of the ideals have come back at certain points in my life. Persig speaks of quality, and how to mindfully squeeze more out of your life. It’s ironic, however, that when I first read the book I missed the lesson quoted above. I was hurrying through the book. Decades later I realize I may have not absorbed one of the greatest lessons in the pages.
Much of my life has been chronic hurry. I’m not sure when it started, or why it continued, but I have spent a lot of time rushing to meet deadlines or obligations, to reach my next goal, to get something done, or to be somewhere. In my early years it was keeping up with the latest trends, or getting to the next party or happening. Later it was rushing to the next appointment, or the next city.
I know it’s not just me. I think we, as a society, have developed into a culture of hurry. Multi-tasking is part of our daily dialogue and the introduction and rapid advancement of technologies has enabled us to do more and see more, at the same time. Along with this progress we have heaped expectations onto ourselves, as have others.
As a result, more often than not, it feels like we are always rushing.
We are continually off to meetings, to dinner, to work, to the theatre; we always seem to be hurrying. Commerce and capitalists embraced this change and have created ways that allow us to do whatever we could before, but quicker now with express lanes, drive-in restaurants, and online banking and shopping. It is, apparently, called convenience, as much as it is called progress.
We take on more work, because apparently we can. And we hurry.
‘Hurry’ is described by Oxford as moving or acting with great or undue haste. All of us have become hasty; we rush to get the job done.
Look at your work at the office; was it completed accurately, thoroughly, and properly, as you multi-tasked your way through the allotted time? Were you getting the job done, or just getting through the day? Did you care about the work you were producing, or just the next task on your agenda?
As our professional lives creep into our personal lives in this imbalanced work/life balance, we take the attributes of hurry along with us. Did you care about the meal you prepared after speeding home from the workplace, or did you rush it?
You know what it’s like to hurry a meal, to sit at the dinner table and discover a little too much pink in the meat, or too much bone in the broccoli. Or, more so, you arrive home hungry after battling rush-hour traffic and don’t even bother preparing the nutritious meal you were planning. Instead you zap one of those microwave entrees designed for people in a hurry, or you take only the time to boil water for your instant noodles. Even then you rush through the chore because you had other things to do, or things you thought could be done at the same time.
In the process you hurried through both tasks. Did you care about either? Really?
As we hurry we learn shortcuts that allow us to keep up the frenetic pace, like ironing only the collar and front of the shirt (you’re wearing a blazer anyway). But like that shirt, the job is never really complete. Take off the jacket and you will see the wrinkles of a job done poorly.
There is no efficiency in hurrying. Still it is expected of us: at work, at home, by ourselves, and in life in general.
I’ve hurried through preparation and presentations, relationships, and lunches with friends, all with the perception that I had something else or something better to do. I’ve also hurried to pack for a business trip only to discover half of my wardrobe was left hanging in the closet or at the dry cleaners.
How efficient was my hurry? I’m reminded of a bumper sticker (or coffee mug) I saw years ago: ‘The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.’
Whatever happened to patience, to persevering through the pain and annoyance and even the mundane tasks to arrive at satisfaction in what you were doing?
I used to think patience meant slowing down, but that is not the case. It’s about taking the right amount of time to do the task right. I’ve hurried through manuscripts; I wrote in a hurry, I edited in a hurry, and I submitted in a hurry. It’s not that the work wasn’t good . . . it just wasn’t good enough.
Hurrying is not economical. You spend more money on gas, on food, on your clothing. You misuse your energy. When you hurry you make financial decisions that will plague you for years. A split-second decision can disrupt, even kill, relationships. How many times have we heard the idiom ‘haste makes waste’?
I’ve been trying, over the past couple of years, to find and implement my patience. It has been trying because you need to unlearn and relearn what it is you do, and what it is you want. You have to cultivate patience, and you have to allow it the proper time.
Patience comes from within; it must be nurtured, it must be respected, and it must confront all the hurry that is imposed on us. Patience is not always there. As I write this I’m trying not to hurry to meet a self-imposed deadline. Still I keep trying to have more patience with myself, as I take the time to plan and organize (and not hurry though the process). I try not to think of what comes next.
I try to care. I try not to hurry.
Most times our lives are hectic and hurried. Does that mean we no longer care about how we are living? I hope not, because there is only one option to living, and I’m in no hurry to do that.
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