What if hurry is killing us?

Some changes are not so helpful

Though not exclusively, it is the purview of men of a certain age to proclaim, and then complain about how things have changed. I am fast becoming one of those men. Like my father, who cut hay in a field which is now the Qwuloolt Estuary and his father who managed the long-since demolished Weyerhaeuser Mill-A, I recall seeing “Star Wars” in what is now the historic Everett Theater, “cruising Colby” and pulling my limit of Chinook salmon from Saratoga Passage using nothing but a few cut herring. Yup, things have changed.

The fate of every young man.

But let me diverge from the script and forgo complaining. The complaining was never my favorite part. Besides, there are a lot of changes to celebrate. Let me instead…reflect…on a change that, while highly significant, might go un-noticed because it is subtle. Like a rising tide, it is hard to perceive. I am speaking of hurry. We have changed into a people who rush. Is hurry killing us?

What’s the difference between Hurry and Busy

Achievement, hard work and progress have always been part of Northwest culture (just look to your own plane-building, hay-harvesting and timber-felling predecessors). However, “busy” is not the same as “hurry”. Busyness presupposes only an abundance of opportunities like, “I have so many gifts to open!”  But hurry adds frustration and resentment like, “How am I supposed to open all these gifts?!”

There is intense pressure to act upon (or at least “feel ____ about”) every scrap of information which assaults us from a growing, global output via a growing network of sources. Demands for our attention are coded in phrases like:

“We must ensure this never happens again.”

“You will be on the wrong side of history.”

“We’re on a slippery slope.”

“Your rights are threatened.”

“This is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it.”

There’s a lot to get angry about

Not to say that any single issue is necessarily meritless, but the pressure to respond, to endorse, to be outraged, even to pray for all of it, creates an undercurrent of persistent hurry. This translates to short tempers in the check-out line, un-focused suspicion, running yellow lights, re-posting hateful half-truths and ending relationships with the excuse, “I don’t have TIME for this!”…because when we’re in a hurry, at least we feel like we’re doing something and the costs seems worth it.

Hurrying supports the vein hope that we are one of the “good guys” and that our neighbors will notice. We admire and reward people who hurry. Hurry is selfish. Ironically, when we hurry our impact is blunted and, in some cases, erased.

Focus on the needs right in front of you

As the world spins faster, a helpful posture is an un-hurried one. Sure, like our ancestors, let us be busy. There are lots of gifts to be opened, after all. But perhaps we should do so with a calmer spirit, focused on what is right in front us. Eliminating racism? A big gift not fully realized in our lifetime. But you can get to know your immigrant neighbor. Beating climate change? Good luck! But you can give up the car for trips under 3 miles. By slowing down, we can find a collective peace which brings the kind of change for which we are all longing.

Originally published in the Daily Herald


57 year old husband of 31 years, father of two, drumming Gardner.