One of the most popular wellness tips these days is to slow down. Stop the frantic running around, work fewer hours, and be present. Those are certainly all good things. It’s good to simplify life and focus on the things that matter.
I lead a pretty busy life. People often ask me, “how do you do it all?” Then I think about slowing down. Maybe asking for a shorter work week and spending more time relaxing.
The thing is, I already get a fair amount of downtime. I have time to read in bed most evenings, and I often fall asleep before 10 p.m. My weekends are free, and I try to stick to my digital sabbath most Sundays.
I Can’t Slow Down
In fact, I don’t think I can slow down, because there are simply too many changes needed in this country and in the world. Too much to do.
Take a look at the following facts:
- The richest 85 people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest.
- Minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour—has not changed in four years. (In France it’s $12.22, but I suppose they need the extra money since they only work 35 hours per week. (Use this calculator to see if you can figure out how to live on minimum wage.)
- As of 2011, nearly 49 million people in the United States were living in food insecure households (including more than 16 million children).
- The U.S. is ranked 37th in the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems. Yet we spend more than any other country on health care ($2.6 trillion in 2010). Btw, top-ranked France spent about half or US$4,086 per capita on health care in 2011.
- Our education system has similar inefficiencies: We spent $591 billion on education last year, yet United States ranked 31st in math literacy among 15-year-old students in OECD countries. (And 7.9% of high school students dropped out in 2013.)
- One in ten Americans take an anti-depressant (this number is 25% for women in 40s and 50s). Teens are catching up with over 6% of non-institutionalized youth ages 12-19 reporting use of psychotropic medication (2005-2010). (Source: NCHS Data Brief | No. 42 | September 2010)
- We live in a corporatocracy where for-profit corporations dictate how our elected representatives will vote through lobbying and campaign contributions (and probably a decent amount of bullying).
And this list doesn’t even include counterproductive farm subsidies, one in eight humans starving, unnecessary wars, domestic violence, massive greenhouse gas emissions, thousands of species going extinct each year, frac sand mining, Islamophobia, discrimination, or the crippling consumer debt (overall credit card debt is $854.2 billion). There is so much to do!
We Need to Speed Up
In 2012, the average American spent 2.8 hours watching TV each day. (Some sources report even higher numbers.) Talk about slowing down! Our conformist education system coupled with massive amounts of media consumption and psychotropic over-medication has made many of us passive citizens incapable of mustering up the anger or courage or energy to stand up against social injustice and systemic inefficiencies. It’s easier to watch TV and go on a cruise and escape reality. And that’s how the leaders of Corporate America like it.
A genuinely democratic society needs people who are connected to one another, who respect and have confidence in themselves and others, who know themselves, who actively experience life and gain wisdom from it, who can think critically, and who can reject exploitative manipulations. Television watching creates pretty much the opposite kind of people from those who can make genuine democracy work. ~Bruce E. Levine
Guys, I don’t think we can slow down. Well actually, I think we can slow down in certain areas. We can stop over-scheduling our lives with meaningless or non-essential activities. We can stop shopping for fun. We can slow our minds down to participate in life. But we cannot slow down when it comes to fighting for change. We need to speed up. Time is of the essence. Pick your favorite area and go for it. Perhaps its progressive education. Or sustainability. Maybe you want to fight for a livable wage. Whatever it is, speed up. Because there’s a lot to do, and we’re not getting any younger.
P.S. This post was inspired by Get Up, Stand Up by Bruce E. Levine and a long-term research study I heard of a couple of years ago that indicated that people who work hard and are passionate about what they do live the longest, happiest lives.