Saturday, March 11, 2006

No day but today

About a month after coming back from Poland, I headed off to Nova Scotia. Although most of my time was spent in Halifax, I did get a chance to spend a weekend at my aunt and uncle's house. Sunday morning found us at their United Church; my cousin was playing flute at the service, so we all went to watch her.

I remember a lot of specifics from this visit, probably owning to the fact that I kept a very detailed diary during that time; however, what really stuck in my head from that weekend, and not only on paper, was the minister's sermon.

The minister was this large, jolly looking woman who wore colourful clothing, an inviting smile, and, of course, the unmistakable white collar. This was one of the most laid-back and liberal churches I have ever been in, and she personified the general feeling of the church.

Her sermon was about our busy North American lives. North Americans work long hours, manage a house, a family, often do extra activities, and we just never seem to have enough time. You hear people complaining all the time as to how little time they have and how they would love to have more time. Our society is very fast-paced, people want instant gratification, and the saying that "patience is a virtue" is perhaps heard but definitely not seen.

She talked about how important and how rewarding it is when we slow down and take things at a slower and perhaps a more comfortable pace. We're sometimes move so fast that we hardly have the time to smell the flowers, let alone live life. She said that our lives may seem out of our control at times, as we don't seem to have any hold on how fast things are moving. As hard as it may be, she deemed it important that we slow down, smell those flowers, eat slowly, and spend time leisurely with people we want. What is life, she asked, if it just passes you by?

This sermon was of particular interest for me considering I had just come back from Poland. Rural Poland is a world of a difference from fast-paced North American lives. Think of your life as a car going 100 km/h on the highway. When you take an exit, you slow down to fifty or sixty or so, and you really feel the slowness because you've been going so fast for so long. That's how it felt like.
Everything seemed to be moving at such a slower pace. It was very nice in many ways, people would sit around, talk, laugh a little, remember... But, after awhile, one gets tired of that. People had often little motivation or desire to do some things. I found that there was a general feeling of lethargy that just wouldn't go away. Unemployment was high; over 30 percent of the population was jobless, so there was plenty of room for restlessness and frustration.

This did not affect me as much as the rural community in which we were staying, as I was on a program which generally did its own thing. Although, because we worked within the community, we could definitely feel the slow and drawn-out atmosphere. This leisurely pace of life sauntered along and felt relaxed but it also, at the same time, felt painstakingly slow.

It was a very odd thing to adapt to. All of a sudden, very few things seemed rushed, which was such a turn from my normal life.

So, returning home after the program, I was submersed back our busy way of life. I actually had been craving being busy and on-the-move for quite a while now. I was eager to get going.
Personally, I prefer being busy. I prefer having something almost constantly on the go, and I find that I can do a lot more with my time when I actually have a lot to do.

But ultimately, I think there needs to be a balance in one's pace of life. It can't go so fast that it passes you by, but it also can't move at a snail's pace. I suppose things like this often can't be helped in societies. Ideally, people here should work less and have more time to themselves. It would give them a better and more sound grasp on their lives.
On the flip side, there is high unemployment, which is a more difficult thing to fix. However, taking into consideration Poland's joining of the European Union, rural Poland may soon be on an upswing.

Here is an excerpt from La Scouine, a novel that takes place in 1918 Québec. It was censured by the Catholic clergy because of its negative and sombre approach to religious life in the country, which the clergy incessantly preached to be the best kind of life:

"Comme à la campagne, ils s'éveillent le matin au point du jour, mais comme ils n'ont rien à faire, ils attendent encore dans leur lit jusqu'à six heures, alors que la cloche de l'hospice à la voix lente, triste et voilée, tinte mélancoliquement et les fait sortir de leur couche. Ils se lèvent en même temps que les vieux et les orphelins. Après avoir rôdé quelques temps dans l'habitation, ils se mettent à table sans faim. Ils voient les enfants jouer dans la cour sous l'oeil d'une soeur et les vieillards faire quelques pas et s'assoeir sur un banc. Monotone, interminable, s'écoule la journée" (135).

"[Charlot] s'éveillera sans but, sans occupation, en se demandant comment il pourra bien tuer le temps. C'est qu'il en sera ainsi toujours et toujours. Il a renoncé à la terre pour aller goûter le repos, la vie facile, et il n'a trouvé que l'ennui, un ennui motel, dévorant. Il ne vit pas; il attend la mort" (142).


Anonymous said...

I like that I grew up in that sort of atmosphere. My parents like to live the slow life. My mother actually wants to move to Newfoundland. She figures it's slow paced there.

Zaza said...

The slow life is very different than the life I described as lethargic, unmotivated, and very restless. I also grew up in a laidback environment, and I enjoyed that, but that is a world of a difference from rural Poland.

Tex Texerson said...

Work less? Hah!

With inflation going the way it is, we'll be working more before long! Hello 50 hour work weeks! And only expect to get paid for 45 of those hours..

You saw the price of houses in Ottawa. How is a new family supposed to afford that? Simple, by working more!

Japan's Kakegawa City came up with a Slow Life manifesto, which sounds like a nice concept but doesn't address the fact that we spend over half our waking hours working and commuting to/from work.