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the man at the bus stop

One of my most vivid memories of my first year at university was a passing comment by my Sociology lecturer, as he enthusiastically outlined his trip to South America years ago. He talked about how he had walked past the bus-stop, and upon seeing a man waiting there, stopped to enquire when the next bus came. Expecting the man to reply with a number of minutes, he was shocked when the man said, “either today or tomorrow”, then went back to waiting patiently.

My lecturer spoke about how this had made him re-evaluate his concept of time.

While it had made an impact on me the day that I heard it, I soon brushed it aside and went back to living as impatiently as possible. It wasn’t until I was waiting at the bus stop a few days ago, unhappy because I had forgotten both my phone and a book to read, that I remembered this talk from so long ago. And for the first time, I really understood what my lecturer had been trying to tell us.

We are all so desperate to make use of every single second. Each new piece of technology is designed for quicker short-cuts, for less time pressing buttons so that we can carry on being productive.

We feel so helpless and frustrated when, for whatever reason, we are left waiting with nothing to do. We play with our phones while waiting for friends who are running a few minutes late. We pack our lunch for the next day as we wait for the computer to start up, or the television to turn on. We wash clothes, iron, or send that email that needs to be sent during ad breaks or while we are waiting for the microwave to beep. The idea of waiting at a bus stop with nothing to do for even a few minutes is enough to drive us crazy.

We live in a society where we don’t just want a constant influx of stimulation, we need it. Without that stimulation, we are more helpless than infants.

There is no time for contemplation anymore. No time to just sit and breathe. No wonder we are burning out. We are operating at one hundred percent all the time. We need to be inundated with images, knowledge, words, colours, everything that the world can give us, during every single second of every single day.

We are so busy, so intent on doing as much as we can, and as quickly as we can, that we have forgotten that there is pleasure in doing nothing. In simply enjoying existence. And that sometimes simply sitting can bring knowledge or ideas that we would never have had access to otherwise, simply because we are just too busy to listen to the workings of our own minds.

So I challenge you this week to live as the man at the bus stop did. To practice patience. To take those few minutes, or even hours, to sit and enjoy the silence. To enjoy life for it’s own sake.

(Image credit: 1.)

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