From the editor

Not so fast ...

resilience work self-care slow-down Angus Soutar

The more haste, the less speed

Angus Soutar

It's early on a bright Saturday morning in summer and I am driving my trusty old vehicle to yet another Permaculture Design course. The course is going well, the group is great and I am looking forward to the day. The road is open, the surface is good and I am gripped by an almost-forgotten feeling that driving motor vehicles can be a joy as well as the chore it so often is. As I reach the town, I slow down and also burst into song. All seems well in the world.

I round the corner and see an open stretch of road ahead. I also slow down because I see a suspicious white van parked up although there is nothing else around.

Some days later, I receive a suspicious brown envelope. I have been caught in a speed trap. But since I am only marginally over the speed limit, I am given the chance of avoiding criminal prosecution. I can opt to go on a "speed awareness" course to be re-educated and expunge my sins. It will mean time out, a set-back to my work programme. But I am intrigued.

So, on another sunny day some time later I arrive at the venue and queue up with the other miscreants. I rather like this, because there are people from all sorts of backgrounds and many are happy to chat away.

To someone like myself, whose last serious attention to the Highway Code was in 1973, the training was highly informative. (It was also amusing even when it was not intended to be - I could write a whole article about this). The trainers were not state officials sent to punish us; they were advanced driving instructors, keen to help us become better drivers. I enjoyed the technical advice about defensive driving and I now have great insight into the arcane details of statutory road signage.

But it was the more psychological and philosophical side of the session that really caught my attention. Why do so many drivers seem to be in such a hurry and what are the consequences? The answers can easily translate from motoring lessons into life lessons.

For every-day journeys, even if they are 50 miles or more, the most time I can save driving faster (over the limit) is between five and ten minutes. And, in our non-linear universe, the more we speed up,the less time we save overall, it's a diminishing return. I have to come to terms with forgoing a few more minutes each day, which sounds like a good hedge against risks on the road which may result in life-changing consequences.

If I stay at home, however, I will "waste" much more than a few minutes as I fiddle with various devices and internet sites. I am often keen to get some "real" work done, so it's difficult to escape the tyranny of time.

Many of my friends are experiencing this pressure and having difficulty in avoiding stress. A key lesson to learn is that people under stress make poor decisions. I'm thinking a lot about that now.

Ten years ago, I was hearing about a growing enthusiasm for "slow" - "Slow Food" - "Slow Cities". What happened to that? I here a lot now about slowing cars, but very little about slowing the pace that we are living at; exactly the opposite. Skittling about in cars is a symptom of our problems, not a cause.

Much of what we value has taken time to emerge into a valuable state. Old houses are built on firm foundations with well-thought out designs that builders and residents are prepared to modify as time goes on. Relationships need time to mature, learning itself does not become second-nature overnight.

"It's better to be late in this world rather than arrive early in the next". I must take my own advice: I need to take my time and avoid speeding.


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