In Harare, Zimbabwe, I visited the luxurious home of a friend, a white businessman in his fifties. Thereafter, whites would become increasingly extinct in that country because of the goons that often take over after a revolution. But at that time, Brent worried most about his business and the lack of foreign investors in Africa. He rushed through lunch, a smorgasbord of yams, sizzling corn, Zimbabwe’s famous beef, one-bite barbequed lamb cutlets, and fresh vegetables. Leaning over his plate, and, between forkfuls, he queried me about my itinerary and family. Like many busy people, he barely chewed his food before quickly swallowing so that he could return to the office. I recognized the habit—gulping life with no time to digest.
He is typical of me and my colleagues in the corporate world. The fast pace of life with no balance; more interested in making our first million than our children’s first step. More keen to look at the graph of projected profits than our own pre-schooler’s potato painting.
No dying man ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’ We know our lives are out of kilter and yet we do nothing to correct it. Another year passes, our children grow another foot and we spend less than an hour a day playing with them in the week.
Somehow we convince ourselves that if we didn’t work those long hours then we wouldn’t have the money to buy things to make our children happy. In truth, our children would much prefer a few hours of our time than the latest new-fangled fad of a gadget – at least I like to think so!
We work all the hours, some to just cover the bills and others to buy stuff we don’t really need. We are driven by desire, by ego, by pressure and by wanting more for our family, but surely our fast paced lives are now damaging us, our family relations and bonds of friendship.
Everything seems to be moving so swiftly and we are running just to stand still. Standing truly still is almost seen as lazy in this frenetic New Age. Labour-saving devices were supposed to free up our spare time and now the family just sit round in silence; staring into glowing screen of different sizes.
Instead of walking across the room and talking with a colleague, we will ping them a quick email instead. Why? Because there is no time, not time at all. Gadgets help us to do things faster but our ‘to do’ list grows ever longer. Where will it all end?