We’re Human Be-ings, so Why Do We Act Like Human Do-ings?

I’ve been indoctrinated into the culture of speed and busy-ness. Sometimes, I think I’ve hurried through life without really living it.

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Rainbow over Bo Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa, seen from our balcony

Why is it so hard to slow down? Speed is fun, right? Slowing down could be equated with being lazy or not being mentally alert, or worse, with getting old.

I constantly busied myself with something. I filled my head with distraction all day long. Was it so I didn’t need to ask myself whether I was happy or content with my life? If I put those questions to the back of my head, then I didn’t have to think about them, isn’t that it?

Doing nothing, or even just doing one thing at a time, seems to be taboo in the Western world. At the gym, I sought out exercises that work the most body parts simultaneously so no time was wasted. I listened to Ted Talks rather than music in order to build mental acuity. Never mind that I couldn’t remember most of the content, I could just listen to them again. I told myself that this is preparation for a time in the future when my mind will benefit from the brain training I do now.

Racing through meals, I ate standing, sitting at the computer or watching a film. I didn’t taste the food. (It all tastes like chicken anyway!) I’d even found ways to prepare meals faster. I would hardly prepare anything from scratch any more. Prepared food is the answer to a hurried life!

Concert by the Quingshui Cliffs
Concert by the Quingshui Cliffs in Taiwan

Realizing how many training years that Tai Chi requires, I strived to find ways to master it faster because I certainly don’t have a lifetime left to me. Regretting that I hadn’t learned to dance decades earlier, I searched for ways to fast track those lessons as well.

Working with slow internet speeds ironically sped things up by forcing me to multitask. While waiting for sites to load, I could review Kanji charts or make never-ending lists of things I wanted to research online when the speed improved.

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Meditating on a river that feeds Liyu Lake.

I’d figured out how to fill every bit of available time. I’ve been a champion of not wasting a second. I’m even good at making excuses for all my never-ending activity. I’d fallen into the path of Human Doing-ness.

Traveling has taught me there’s no need for constant busyness. I’ve learned to stop for the sunset seen from our balcony over the bay in  Ahmed, Indonesia;  for the end of the rainbow in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town that could be seen from our bedroom window;  for dolphins jumping off the starboard rail while sailing the English Channel;  for the sound of rain falling on the ancient grave markers of the spiritual mountain of Koyasan, Japan;  for the live Halverson Passacaglia (my favorite) played against the crashing waves with the 7900-foot Quingshui Cliffs as a backdrop.

Can I slow down? Can I choose the here and now? Can I find a way to become a ‘human being’ and not a ‘human doing’?

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New Zealand sunrise

6 thoughts on “We’re Human Be-ings, so Why Do We Act Like Human Do-ings?”

    1. Gilbert, you do have guts. Every time you pilot that cessna of yours, you take off to explore new territory. And the volunteer work you do overseas each year in a dangerous country, is rewarding, not to mention exciting and without a doubt, takes guts.

    1. Ivan, it’s incredibly liberating to realize in your heart, that you can be the master of your life. You can choose which matters are important to you and then choose how you react to them. After spending time with you at that campsite in New Zealand, I think you are well on your way to figuring out those questions for yourself.

  1. It’s a great question Deena. I’m glad for you that you slowed down to take in some of the beauty around you during your travels. I relate to what you’re saying, always having a ‘to do’ list myself. I’ve asked myself similar questions and even once was “accused” by a friend of staying ‘so busy’ that I didn’t have to ‘deal’ with what was in front of me – yes I relate. I suppose being aware of it is the first step in changing it. If you find a magic key, let me know!!

    1. Sam, yes we’re all racing down this metaphorical highway in our daily lives. Attending Goenka 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreats has helped my mind slow down and become keenly aware of the present moment. It was remarkable to notice my mind and body react when I stepped away from the errands, computers and phones and that relentless sense that I should be doing something else. An inexpressible expanse opened in my head and heart. It was enough to make me cry to see how I’d been leading my life and then discover that I’d found the magic key!

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