In our world everything is “instant”

Friday, 15th September, 16.00

Stop for a moment and think! Don’t we have everything at our fingertips? Running, fresh water at every tap; bright electric lights everywhere at the flick of a switch; flame at the mere strike of a match or cigarette lighter. And what about the car ignition, the 24 hour supermarket with foods from across the globe, at the click of your fingers?

I sit here at a computer and type a letter which I can send by email across the internet world, I can see the faces of friends in other countries as we chat on the phone. Any time we want. All in an instant.

Why then are we so rushed, so pressed for time, so busy? We have ripped out fire places and inserted hideous gas fires (with imitation glow), we have consumed vast, sloppy mounds of ready made meals and guzzled gallons of instant coffee, teabags shaped for mugs (no time to brew here, no ritual). And most of all, we have jumped into oil fuelled cars and dashed everywhere, like busy bees. Off to the school, then work, then a meeting, lunch, the shops, back home, via school, and off in the evening to some quick entertainment. Such busy lives. No time to do things, no time at all.

Now, think of the pleasures of a candle lit dinner, a stroll in the countryside or park, the delight in watching children or pets play, the excitement of fireworks and the glow of the bonfire. (Think too of washing clothes by hand, digging vegetables from your garden and carrying water in from the well. Imagine travelling into town by bicycle or even with a horse and cart). Remember when grocers had vegetables in season? How we long for hand written letters and messages from distant lands, the exotic postage stamps, brown paper parcels and unusual smells.

So, when next you grab your mobile phone or sprawl in front of the television, ask yourself, where does all the time go? And why? Think of your ideal holiday. What are you doing? Maybe lounging on a beach, cool drink in hand, or exploring mysterious market streets. Maybe you are striding out along a broad footpath high upon a hillside, the wind in your hair, or maybe it is Christmas day morning and you are snug at home, surrounded by family, laughter and a roaring log fire. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven as the snow softly settles outside. All is still. It seems timeless.

Most likely your Christmas has become hectic too with phone calls and television programmes, noise and confusion, too much food and a hangover. Plus worries about how much you have spent and the work that is not being done … emails piling up in your inbox. It never stops. Where are the weekends and the holidays? What of the seasons, of night and day? Do you feel rushed? Do you feel in control? Where is all the laughter, pleasure and satisfaction? What of spontaneity and play? When are you next going to see the stars at night? When will we stop feeling tired?

What happens as the oil runs out and the planet heats up? How much longer can you work to keep your income, to pay for all that stuff? What, oh what will you do if the lights go out, if the food is not in the supermarket, if the nappies are not on the shelf? Will the lingering threat of another terrorist attack ever fade, or is it going to get worse? How much will you work to pay for the fuel in your car? When will you say, we cannot afford the new computer / television/ car /clothes / holiday / washing machine / mobile phone? What are you going to do if the supply of gas or oil is cut off? If suddenly, things are no longer instantly available, no longer at your finger tips? What if you heating system or plumbing breaks and no one comes to repair it (too busy) or your car’s computer fails and no one comes to pick you up (no spare parts guv)? What will you do if the water in your taps tastes like pond water and is alive with bacteria, but the supermarket shelves are empty of bottled water? No drinkable water! What will you do?

It could happen next week, tomorrow, in an instant. The power goes out, so no news, no one telling you to stay calm and what to do. No one organising your life and ensuring a smooth return to normality. No one to complain to. Just a lot of other people, all in the same boat, all panicking. What will you do then? Will you panic? Are you addicted to instants, or can you live without them? Worth thinking about. Worth doing something about – before it is too late.

This weekend, we are exploring this by turning off the power, the phones, the taps – and ignoring the bank and credit cards. We are partially cutting ourselves off our addiction, just for two days, to contemplate just where we are at.

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