“I’m soooo busy” aka “I’m productive”

I’m still on the busyness bandwagon, probably because I can feel the inexorable suction that a busy lifestyle exerts on me. Our culture has been hijacked by a busy, hurried, overloaded, overbooked psyche. It is the way western life is lived!

One of the things we’re saying when we tell people that we’re busy, is that in fact we are productive and useful human beings. The mindset behind this, is that if we are productive, and achieving in life, then we are significant, important and worthy. We’re good people.

There are some problems with this mentality though. The converse is that if we are unproductive non-achievers, then really we are less valuable as a person. An autistic child who never really produces anything, is less valuable, even though they may have wonderful attributes and relationship and bring joy into their families lives.

Another problem is that we are reducing the human experience to one of utilitarianism. To be human is to be productive. But this is a very modern mindset, which has really taken hold since the industrial revolution. It turns humans into machines, thus dehumanizing us. The arts have no place. Relationships suffer. Our health suffers. Contemplation, reflection, meditation, solace are all seen as superfluous, fluffy, useless, and airy fairy. But these are all things that make us feel human.

A recent survey of 6000 British civil servants showed that those who worked three to four hours of overtime per day, had a whopping 60% higher risk of heart disease. Another recent survey of over 1200 mums showed that 70 per cent felt burnt out. Busyness is bad for us because productivity isn’t the ultimate purpose of a human life. If you live in a constant state of busyness, I think you’re a bit of a tool.

In fact, we’ve been busy for so long, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel human.


“I’m soooo busy” aka “I’m special”

“Hi, how are you?”

“I am soooo busy.”

This is a common daily occurence across the world nowadays. I would love to know when it began (and where!). Responses used to be “well thank you”, “fine thank you” and the like, but I think today, the “busy” response (or the “tired” one) is probably the most common.

Have you ever tried the opposite response when someone asks how you’ve been lately? “Not busy at all. Sooo much spare time. Really relaxed.” Sounds terribly lame doesn’t it.

You see “busy” means I’m wanted. I’m useful. People are actually clamoring for my time and attention. I’m solidly booked – in fact I’m overbooked. I’m special. I’m important. I’m popular. So much implied by that little four letter word beginning with “b”.

Busyness is actually becoming a way of life. One that brings hurry, rush, stress, pressure, anxiety, speed and adrenaline into our lives and it permeates in such a way that we even rush when we don’t need to! You’ve got no idea how quickly I eat my tea, so I can get to the washing up, so I can get to the kids bedtime routine, so I can get to….  We just get caught up in it all. After all, our busyness is tied to our importance and significance, so the moment we’re not busy, we are …. well, nothing! Nobody… unimportant, useless, unpopular, and undesirable. Not really something any of us aspire to be.

The problem with busyness is it claws at our humanity. A famous study had one group of college students research the parable of the Good Samaritan – someone who stopped to help an assault victim. Following that, the group was told they immediately had a test on the subject and were already late and had to get to the examination hall.

The other group studied something totally irrelevant to the parable and were told they had plenty of time to get to their test. On the way there, a “victim” was lying on the ground nearby. The students who stopped to offer assistance were the ones who believed they had plenty of time.   Ironically the ones who studied the parable of the Good Samaritan were less likely to stop…..

Worth thinking about. Anyways, I gotta go – I’m soooo busy.

The Slow Movement

I’m not for sure about where I heard about the slow movement but I think it was on the radio (I listen to a lot of radio). A guy was talking about how he had visited a slow restaurant in Italy or somewhere and the discussion evolved into the movement itself being a response to MacDonalds being set up in an ancient part of Rome and the subsequent backlash to the “fast food” movement.

Just stop and think about your life for a bit. Actually bet you can’t. We’re not good at stopping are we? Stopping is uncomfortable. It feels like a waste, somehow evil to stop because stopping has no meaning, and it doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t seem to have any inherent value. We’re certainly not used to it. There’s always something to be done – something important or urgent. We have to get those monkey’s off our back (and saddle up the pigs because they’re about to fly).

Burnout happens partly because we can’t stop. We get addicted to adrenaline, productivity, pseudo-success or we’re simply deceived thinking that the essence of life is in achieving and doing. But it’s not. Isn’t it odd that in rural third-world places where people still have to gather wood and water, there’s no burnout. I saw a great program where middle class white families are sent to third world countries to see how they cope and one guy had to do the traditional role of the man. Sit outside his mud hut…. that’s all. His wife cracked the shits because she had to cook and gather wood while he did nothing.

We seem to have so much to make our lives more efficient and yet somehow the wheels are spinning and we’re really not getting much more done than our ancestors did. And the slow movement is a growing one, that suggests we get back to doing things slowly.

One classic passage in the bible talks about Jesus healing the sick and driving out demons. Shortly afterwards he takes off into the bush to get away from it all. The next morning the villagers come find him and literally beg him to return and do it all again. He refuses saying he needs to be somewhere else. There’s so much in that passage that should blow your mind out, but I’ll let you do the thinking. I will say this; Jesus was never in a hurry and neither should we.