The COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the entire world has been the catalyst for a number of changes. Many of us are now working from home, our children’s education has been severely disrupted, and there is great fear and anxiety about the disease, the economy and the social ramifications of this all.
I don’t like making light of serious situations, but I think it is still safe to say that it has been a blessing for the Casa Sloyer. I’ve been able to spend a massive amount of time with my wife, I’m reading more and, heck, we launched this blog and have recorded even more podcasts as well during the quarantine. I am more productive at work and my home office has brought me a great deal of satisfaction, a satisfying feeling I had not previously found in a cubicle.
A running joke between my wife and I is that today feels like every day of the week while it simultaneously feels like none of them. The days seem to both drag by and yet they pass faster than before. Our perception of time has morphed. The clock is no longer as large of a looming menace. It’s still omnipresent, yes, but we pay less heed to it than before.
This distortion of time has been sort of a revelation for us. It’s shown how much we are beholden to the tyranny of the clock and full schedules. My wife and I have had to shift our definition of productivity to match this slower pace of life. We race around less and savor each moment more. The result? More peace and joy.
Time is a funny thing. It is, in many ways, the great equalizer, a gift generously bestowed on all. We cannot expand the 24 hours we get so that we receive more. We cannot steal some from others. We can, however, squander it.
I am fairly opposed to the so-called “hustle” culture. My issue with it is that it is concentrated much more on doing, particularly action for the sake of action, rather than being. Outward actions, life-hacks and “five things to start doing today” can make it seem like you are making progress. You may, in fact, be moving – somewhere. But the change you are making will always be shallow if you neglect placing a firm inner foundation. You cannot trick your brain or body into happiness or health with action alone.
I believe that to always be moving is a foolish thing and the equivalent of squandering time. It is a sign of distorted priorities and a preoccupation with externals. If you are constantly trying to cram your schedule with things, you are enslaved to the clock. Your life becomes one that is regimented to the point that you lose a bit of what it truly means to be human.
I am not arguing against routines – I think those are rather helpful when installed into your life in a sane manner. I am arguing instead for a slowing down of life, a loosening of our preoccupation with busyness and noise. When you cut out the clutter and slow down, you begin to savor the mundane once again. I have rediscovered during this period the joy of learning Latin and writing. Before it was a chore, because I was always trying to “slot it” into my schedule. With less places to go and less action to take, it has fallen into my lap again as the prudent thing to do.
Furthermore, I have been blessed with a greater number of periods for silent reflection and prayer. This explosion of thoughts on a page, more a personal reflection than an article or essay at that, is the byproduct of one of these. I’ve learnt a great deal about myself these past ten weeks by relinquishing unnecessary expectations I placed on myself in a foolish attempt at productivity or success. This slowed-down life, one filled with measured action, reflection, prayer, and solitude is something that I wish for all those seeking to become more virtuous men.
To end, I must note that this is also not an essay in favor of total passivity in life. What is important is to, as we’ve stated numerous times before, find balance in your life. Tone down the aggressive action and over-scheduling and slow down a bit. Don’t become complacent but reflect a bit and you will realize that 24/7 hustling will not get you anywhere faster than a more measured, prudent response will. Hard work is important but overwork is insane. A noble, aristocratic life is not about wealth but about balance and the fostering of goodness in each facet of life.
With that, I throw down a challenge: reflect on your actions during the pandemic and try to determine what is the catalyst for them. If it is prudent to continue, then do so. If not, cut it out of your life. Learn to love the gap on your schedule not as a hole to be exploited but a time for self-reflection, reading or simply living in silence. Silence and reflection are, after all, catalysts for growing in virtue. A slower way of life is one of the best ways to get started with that right now.