I do hope you had relaxing holidays, full of rich encounters and pleasant experiences. Now the summer is over, I would like to invite you to think about our relationship with the passing of time, thanks to Jean-Louis Servan Schreiber’s book, called ‘Too fast! Why are we prisoners of the short-term?’, published by Albin Michel.
The author closely examines the symptoms related to our frantic race in the main fields of human activity, before, I feel, leading us to salutary awareness.
“Since our technical civilisation expanded to the full in the 19th Century, a supplementary sense of great urgency has imposed itself on us, namely spreading materialistic progress to as many people as possible...The speed comes from the social requirements. Global economy does not only concern exchanges and production capacities, but also implies a world of impatience.”
Here are a few examples of the short-term, according to Jean Louis Servan Schreiber:
In politics, first of all:
“A bill is presented to Parliament in all haste. From a media point of view, the subject has been dealt with. But(...) sometimes, the commissions meet to discuss a bill as soon as it arrives at the National Assembly and the bill is examined within eight or ten days. This haste results in illegible legal texts that are consequently ineffective.”
In firms :
“One of the first exercises suggested in the methods for dealing with time consists in sorting out what is urgent and what is important, so as to make what is important the priority. “ However, “one of the features of the cultural revolution we are going through at the moment is the increasing confusion between the two.(...) Urgency has thus become the main way of dealing with something, in our lives, as in our social interactions; ‘by default’, as the computer engineers put it.”
In the financial world:
“To avoid the crisis being as fatal as in 1929, the answer to the urgency of the 2007 crisis was the immediate increase in the nations’ debts, all over the world. The system was saved, there and then. The future generations will be the ones to pay for it.”
In the environment, of course:
“It seems that most people do not feel personally concerned by climate change. It is too abstract a threat, too complicated to picture and our senses are not developed enough for us to feel warned about the increase in the quantity of CO2 in the air or pollution in the water.
Finally, in our personal lives:
In just a few years, two technologies, Internet and mobile phones, have driven our relationships towards the quantitative, leisure, what is potential, fantasmatic and yet more ephemeral (...) Keeping up a friendship, as in fact keeping up any human relationship, requires time (...), it is during moments when a couple’s life seems to be full of eclipses, that friendship tempers solitude (...) But everything has to fit into our unchanging timetable framework. The more we want to widen our circle of friends, the fewer hours we can devote to each one.”
Then Jean-Louis Servan Schreiber suggests standing back a little, to take more of an overview. I have retained three directions, from the perspective of Selfarmonia.
“Let our main priority be realising the close antinomy between our accelerated lives and ability to think. I’m not talking about our practical intelligence, (...), but of the necessary reflection on this way of living and its consequences on our personal future and the future of the world.” (...) “Once childhood is over, if we don’t think about the long term, in our jobs, our emotional balance, our choices and what we really want, no-one else will do it for us.”
“Isn’t it comforting to remain with the illusion of eternity that the present time offers us, a present that is renewed each time the sun goes up? (...) Thinking and aiming at the long term is neither easy nor natural. It implies a mental effort, using concentration, imagination and self-confidence, all the more so, since projecting ourselves into the future also means bringing us closer to our death.”
“The more people want to regain control of their bodies and minds, the stronger this new counter culture will be. It is not a question of punitive ascetism - those who believe in it have understood that – but the way to real, deep well-being.(...) A good relationship with oneself can become the simple, but with time, powerful way to open the door to the long term.”
Taking one’s time is an urgent matter, don’t you think?