Sunday, February 8, 2009

Slooooow Doooowwn!

You were supposed to read that in a really low voice, like in a movie where things go into slow motion and someone yells, but their voice is slowed down as well. I hope you read it correctly. If not, go back and do again.

Great. Now, I want to thank my little sister for sending me this fantastic article. Thanks, Meg!

Of Crockpots & Microwaves
-Craig L. Israelsen

Life presents us with more than a few ironies. These inconsistencies are sometimes very obvious. Occasionally they are very subtle and we may actually misinterpret, or miss, the irony involved. Missing the essence of what is taking place can often lead to confusion or frustration. Take, for example, the rapid technological developments in the latter half of the twentieth century. Specifically, let us consider the numerous devices and appliances found in many of today's homes, such as phones, washing machines, dryers, copy machines, stoves, electric irons, computers, furnaces, microwave ovens, etc.

Given all these time-saving inventions we should have an abundance of time to devote to children, spouses, reading, and other noble pursuits. Ironically, rather than perceiving an abundance of time many individuals today feel stressed and harried due to a supposed lack of time. Worse yet, many feel a nagging lack of meaning in their busy lives. Remedies for this ironical ill include (ironically) slowing down, gaining perspective, modifying expectations, and engaging in meaningful activities.

Slowing down. Inasmuch as adding "time-saving" appliances to the home has not produced vast increases in "leisure" time the flip-side logic would seem to suggest that if homemakers slowed down they may actually have more time. Answer irony with irony. Slowing down simply suggests that we savor more of what we do. If the choice is between being stressed out while attempting to do it all and enjoying fewer, yet more important, activities the choice seems fairly obvious.

Perspective. Perspective is our attitude, outlook, position, or viewpoint. Gaining perspective suggests that we occasionally need an attitude adjustment, a different outlook, a clearer position, or a clarified viewpoint. One clarified viewpoint might be that simply being busy will not necessarily produce meaning. Moreover, being too busy with unproductive or unworthy activities or events can rob our lives of meaning. In his book "Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward" Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed that:

"Some of us in our busyness end up knowing each other as functions instead of as individuals. It is difficult to love a function or to regard a robot. Knowing takes time. Being too busy and being too lazy mean there will be some great associational adventures we will never have."

A spiritually-nourished perspective will remind us to put people (particularly little people) ahead of schedules. Inasmuch as interpersonal relationships are long-lasting they should be the primary focus of our business (i.e. "busy-ness"). Perspective allows us to see a bigger picture while living the smaller, daily details. Perspective helps us avoid being "caught in the thick of thin things".

Expectations. Why aren't time-saving household devices freeing up our time? Perhaps it is our persistently high expectations. Given the appliances available to us we now expect to have cleaner and more neatly pressed clothing, cleaner floors and carpets, more communication via phone and fax, more flyers and handouts to distribute, more variety in our meals, ...and the list goes on.

Homemakers today spend as much time in household maintenance as homemakers did 40 years ago. Has technology failed us? No. Expectations have simply risen with every technological improvement. And they continue to rise. In short, we are hard to please. Whatever the present level of technology, it will not be high enough. Does this imply that we should not have high expectations or standards of excellence? Certainly not. A person-sensitive perspective will assist us in knowing when high expectations are appropriate and, conversely, when high expectations may begin to sabotage relationships.

Technology is exhilarating...and intoxicating. While it can open up new opportunities for accomplishment technology may also dull our sense of natural or reasonable limitations. There are undoubtedly many benefits to rapid task accomplishment. Yet in very subtle ways we are at great risk. The risk is that we begin to think that everything -- even relationships -- can take place quickly.

Today's computers can accomplish in several seconds what once took several hours, or even days! International travel is no longer measured in days, but in hours. Verbal communication is instantaneous via phone, rather than requiring weeks via parcel post. Surgical procedures formerly needing long periods of convalescence are now performed on an out-patient basis. Meals requiring several hours of crockpot cooking time can now be ready in a matter of microwave minutes.

While there are many tasks that have been served well by technological development, there are others which have not. Interpersonal relationships are most significantly at risk in a faster-paced world. Attempting to develop a deep friendship in a matter of minutes does violence to the term friendship. Likewise, rearing children is a slow, long-term process. In short, the deepest interpersonal experiences we will have cannot successfully be sped up. And why would we want to? We must recognize that a crockpot paradigm is more appropriate than a microwave mentality when dealing with people – particularly those closest to us. Efficiency is simply not the goal in many interpersonal interactions.

Why a lack of meaning in so many busy lives? A scarcity of meaningful activities. Household production processes that were formerly accomplished by family members working together (chopping wood, washing & drying dishes, harvesting food & fiber) have now been transferred to people outside the home or machines inside the home. We have methodically shifted from being a nation of production to a society of consumption.Working together, within a context of production, provides time to talk. Tasks that involve many hands, are not quickly accomplished, and are not cognitively taxing (hauling hay, weeding the garden, preparing a simple meal) can provide an ideal setting for communication. Such "multi-tasking" works well, as long as the tasks do not demand all of our mental attention. More importantly, discussions while working together are often information-conveying, rather than simply time-passing. The longer the task, the longer (and often more meaningful) the discussion. Meaningful conversations while traveling for hours together in a car are one example. In our day, too few activities revolve around joint work between adults and children. As a result, time needed for information-laden discussions is all too often budgeted in minutes, when hours might be needed.

Absent a plethora of production-based, intra-family activities, a dominant endeavor for individuals and families becomes consumption. Not surprisingly, consumption activities are often less interpersonally rewarding than production activities. Production usually builds, consumption often depletes.

Technology is useful if it adds meaning to our lives. If it does not we are either using technology inappropriately or our expectations/perspective are out of balance. Doing some things faster via technology need not detract from our interpersonal lives. However, attempting to implement a technologically-based life-pace will surely do violence to human interactions inherently designed to be gradual, methodical associations over time.

Where human relationships are involved, a slower pace is often better. For example, if you want meat to really taste good, use a crockpot -- not a microwave. To cook meat right, it simply takes a lot of time and a little heat. Turning up the heat won't make up for lost time. In like manner, turning up our activity level (becoming busier) won't make up for lost associations and time spent together. The good news is that it's never too late to slow down to a crock-pot pace in our personal lives. So, hurry up and slow down.

So, does anybody have a great crockpot recipe? I know, I'm so funny. Seriously though, this really hits home for me. This is another one of those lessons that I have to keep re-learning in life, so this came as a great reminder for me. It is amazing how often I'll go to bed at night and think about how "busy" I was all day, but how little I accomplished when it comes to what really matters. I can spend all day rushing my kids from one activity to the next errand, but never really do anything with them. And then I look back on the day with regret and feelings of unfulfillment. And that is not why HH and I chose to have these sweet little children. HH and I can spend the whole weekend accomplishing things, but never really being together. And then I look back on the weekend with regret and feelings of unfulfillment. That is not why we chose to get married. I don't want to look back on my life and feel the same way about how I used my time here.

Besides, if we're rushing through life, it's a lot harder to find the joy. It's not going to speed up to find you, that's for sure. A busy life is a stressful life. One thing I know about joy is that it doesn't really mix with stress. At all. I'm choosing joy.

What about you? What do you choose? How do you find ways to slow down, even when there is so much that "needs" to be done? What are the things in your life worth slowing down for?

Isn't my little sister great? If anyone else has an email, article, story to share, please pass it along! It's an easy way to be a guest blogger. Just please leave a little note in the comments telling me that you've emailed me at Thanks!


Kristen said...

I think sometimes we have to choose what is most important to us to get done. I have learned this lesson in the past couple of weeks with the computer. Blogs, emails and everything computer oriented sometimes has to wait for a long time so that I can play with little man, making sure he is happy and gets the attention that he needs.

Amy said...

I forget sometimes what it is that really makes me happy. Sometimes I get caught up in books or doing projects (which are definitely fun and really do have a place in life) but I do them INSTEAD of spending time with my children or husband. I like how you put it, remembering why we got married and had kids in the first place- to have joy. And real true joy comes from the relationships we have with our family and friends.

Meg said...

I like reading everyone's thoughts on this article because I feel like I learned five times as much as I did when I just read it by myself. That's another reason why your blog is amazing! Thanks for posting this. Love you!