This is not a piece on instant gratification, but it isn’t far from it. It’s a look at our culture of urgency and why the South African way of “now now”(as in “later” not “right now”) might just be the better approach to life.
Of course, there are some things that are, incontrovertibly, urgent, like going into labour. In fact the body has many urgent needs.
Swift crisis management during natural disasters is indeed crucial. Like when your lodge on the Zambezi faces the worst flood in its existence and staff have to canoe to work.
Many of the emails we receive that taut the word in dispute in capital letters in their subject line… those are often the least urgent.
Many of the things we feel so rushed to accomplish, provide, and respond to aren’t at all as dire as we tell ourselves – or others tell us – they are.
I’ve come to notice this in myself, my own words and emails, and in my responses. I can see it in my relationships with those closest and with complete strangers. And rather than continuing to fan the madness, I’ve decided to take a step back. To ask myself: Hang on, love, will the earth fall to pieces if I do not reply to this midnight email or WhatsAapp message right away? Or would returning to sleep, to hugging my sons or enjoying our dinner together be a better move?
Would it be alright if I keep my eyes on the road and don’t attempt to answer a voice note while driving from one meeting to another? Would it be ok if I just sat here and twiddled my toes and knitting needles for a little while longer, in the name of peace and sanity?
Because what good am I if I’m always firing from chaos? What good is it if I continue to pass on the chaos to my young hearts who are about to go to school or who have just returned from a bad day and need my love and attention more than anything? What good is it to pass the madness on to my team, my employees, my colleagues, when so much of their state of being determines the success of our work, our lodge, our labour of love?
What good, or rather how much bad will it do considering the theory of the Butterfly Effect?
We often put aside our own lives to tend to these play-play flames that simply never go out. Why have our dogs and cats, and a home to play with them in, if there is always something more pressing pulling us away from the nudge of their heads in our laps or the curl of their tail around our legs?
There are some things that are urgent, but many times it feels a lot more essential to life to turn off the laptop and stroke the cat. For at least ten minutes, ten free glorious minutes, before returning to the call of the world outside.
In the waiting we learn so much. When Renzi can’t satisfy his food cravings immediately, he is forced to be patient, to reconsider if he really is hungry or not. When Carlos has a joke to tell but someone else is talking, he learns to listen, to slow down, to compromise. In the waiting, we learn about ourselves and others and we do so with a greater joy and understanding than the state of urgency allows for.
And really, shouldn’t that be the real priority in life? Greater joy and understanding?