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Image by Ivan Aivozaski

“I think we’re miserable partly because we have only one god, and that’s economics. Economics is a slave-driver. No one has free time; no one has any leisure. The whole culture is under terrible pressure and fraught with worry. It’s hard to get out of that box. That’s the dominant situation all over the world.” — James Hillman

*

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness takes over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

~ John O’Donohue

*

We invented psychopathology and thereby labelled the memoria a madhouse. We invented the diagnoses with which we declared ourselves insane. After subtly poisoning our own imaginal potency with this language, we complain of a cultural wasteland and loss of soul. The poison spreads, words continually fall ‘mentally ill’ and are usurped by psychopathology…….
— James Hillman

*

But no matter how much parents and grandparents may have sinned against the child, the man who is really adult will accept these sins as his own condition which has to be reckoned with. ~Carl Jung

We’re in a big hurry, for some reason. Our whole culture is rushing forward as if we didn’t have a moment to lose. Why? What’s more important than stopping to see and reflect on the garden or desert that surrounds us? We are pushed through childhood into adulthood, work, money, family making and the thousand and one things until we’re all used up and can’t take another step forward. Is that a life?

We live in a culture of speed. I think we are not made for such velocity. The older cultures move more slowly. Their pace of living allows rest, vacations, celebrations, time for connection with others, time for conviviality over food and drink, time to taste life, time for ritual and homage to the gods.

We have stripped all that away to turn ourselves into cogs in a money-making machine. And then we wonder why we suffer from depression and a sense of meaninglessness, why our relationships are so tenuous and easily broken. Our addictions point to an unsatisfied hunger for meaning and for beauty. We have created an unbeautiful world where the human soul has no place to breathe.

My solution is not necessarily your solution. I sought out older cultures because I loved not just a slower pace, I wanted the art and the architecture of the disappearing world. I wanted the food and celebrations, the human interactions and languages of the vanishing slow-living cultures of the West. Even then, as Hillman says, it’s hard to get out of the box your native culture has put you in.

Covid19 is asking us to slow down, stay at home, stop going to the office, be aware of your surroundings because it could all disappear in an instant, think about your death and what it could mean. Value what you have now.

We’re tapping our toe as we await the quick fix that will free us to get back to business as usual. Never mind that normal life is killing the Earth and everything in it. Never mind that it’s making us sick and suicidal. We’re addicted to speed.

I’m hoping we are living through a major course correction, not just a temporary slowdown. I’m hoping for a revisioning of our path.

I don’t think I’m the only one.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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