The books on the shelf have similar titles: Slowing Down Modern Life, The Rush Culture, Putting a Price on Speed … Most everyone agrees that contemporary life is lived in the fast lane, and we’re battling the consequences in the form of stress and other maladies. It might seem as though life was much simpler a hundred years ago, but even changes taking place back then were a cause for concern for people at the time, as illustrated in the following extracts:
The cause of the … increase in nervous disease is increased demand made by the conditions of modern life. … Everything is done in a hurry. We talk across a continent, telegraph across an ocean, take a trip to Chicago for an hour’s talk. … What wonder if the pressure is almost more than our nerves can bear.—G. Shrady (from P.C. Knapp), “Are Nervous Diseases Increasing?” Medical Record, 1896
With the advent of cheap newspapers and superior means of locomotion … the dreamy quiet old days are over. … Men now live, think, and work at express speed. They have their Mercury or Post laid on their breakfast table in the early morning, and if they are too hurried to snatch from it the news during that meal, they carry it off, to be sulkily read as they travel … leaving them no time to talk with the friend who may share the compartment with them. … The hurry and bustle of modern life … lacks the quiet and repose of the period when our forefathers, the day’s work done, took their ease.—Morley William Smith in Ancient and Modern, 1886
If it was seen as that bad well over a century ago, when horses were still the main means of transportation, landline phones were a rarity, and the internet had not even been dreamed of, what hope is there for us today? Perhaps the answer is that no matter the circumstances of the world around us, we can slow down, take time to talk with a friend, to notice the daisies at our feet, to savor our food. We can lift up our eyes to the heavens and discover that the stars are still silently twinkling. De-stressing is a matter of the mind and heart.