“People live for the present, quickly and irresponsibly: and this they call 'freedom',” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche at the end of the XNUMXth century. If the philosopher had lived in the present day, he would probably have said "these are all crazy, they do nothing to find themselves" and would have retired to live in a forest, like Thoreau, to recover the calm necessary for reflection and introspection. .
The truth is that haste has become a sine qua non of modernity, so that our lives go through a frenzy of seemingly unstoppable, inevitable and inalienable activities. In this world, taking a break is a luxury. Taking time, a virtue lost in the recesses of memory. And as we focus our attention on doing, we forget we are.
Haste takes us away from ourselves
The speed at which we live is nothing more than an illusion based on the belief that it saves us time when, in reality, haste and speed accelerate it. We live in a state of “violent and complex stimulation of the senses, which makes us progressively less sensitive and, therefore, more in need of an even more violent stimulation. We long for distraction, a landscape of visions, sounds, emotions and excitement in which as many things as possible must be accumulated in the shortest possible time [...] And despite the nervous tension, we are convinced that sleep is a waste of precious time and we continue to pursue those fantasies well into the night, ”wrote Alan Watts.
We don't realize that as we run from place to place, we lose our life. So we fall into a contradiction: the more we pretend to cling to life through acceleration, the more it escapes us. Victims of haste, we do not have time to look within, we strive to function automatically and to be able to do everything. And this way of life becomes such an ingrained habit that we soon disconnect from our selves.
Nietzsche summed it up brilliantly: "Haste is universal because everyone runs away from themselves". Any attempt to reconnect, inspired by calm and slowness, scares us, so we seek refuge in haste, we invent new things to do, new commitments to respect, new projects in which to get involved, in the hope that they will restore us the state of preconscious torpor, because we do not know what we will find by introspection, we do not know if we will like the person we have become. And this scares us. Much fear…
Introspection requires slowness
It is not easy to unlearn some of the habits we have developed. Victims of impatience, consumed by the incessant ticking of the clock, we have learned to fill our agenda and be proud of it. We condense experiences in the shortest possible time to do more, as if life were just a competition in which the one who completes the most things wins.
But if we stop for just a second and reflect, the rush in which we live almost never responds to really important and urgent things, but is due to the needs of a lifestyle that tries by all means to keep us distracted and busy as much as possible. as long as possible. The current haste is to fill our lives with feverish activity and speed, so that there is no time left to face the real problems, the essentials.
What is the antidote?
Nietzsche, who came to describe haste as "indecent", pointed out the essential pillars that allow us to live in a more calm and complete way, transforming our life into a work of art to be enjoyed with care and slowly.
In “In the booklet of idols” he said: “you must learn to see and you must learn to think […] Learning to see implies accustoming the eye to calm, to patience, to let things come closer; learn to postpone the trial, to approach and analyze the specific case from all sides ".
Nietzsche explained that we must learn to “not respond immediately to a stimulus, but to control the instincts that create obstacles, that isolate us”, to be able to postpone decisions and actions. At the other extreme he placed those who were unable to resist a stimulus, those who reacted and followed the impulses, considering that this rush to respond "is a symptom of disease, decay and exhaustion".
With these lines Nietzsche invites us to take the necessary pauses to reflect, in a calm way, letting reality unfold little by little, aware that reason requires slowness, while haste works on the basis of prejudices and preconceived ideas.
Although fast thinking can be adaptive in certain circumstances, the lack of reflection and calm leads us to irrationality and to make bad decisions. Precisely for this reason, slowness can become tremendously subversive in today's world: we have to move more slowly in order to live, to think, to be able to decide for ourselves what we want - and we don't want.
It is in those moments of calm and patience that the meaning of life emerges. That "letting things get closer to us" that Nietzsche refers to is a precious time interval between fact and our reaction, between thought and action, a sort of "void" that can be filled unexpectedly with existence full. Then, and only then, can we make peace with ourselves. We will learn to enjoy the company of that self we had neglected and we will no longer have the need to escape from ourselves.