ONE THING SLOWLY
There’s haste in my mind and movement now as I write. There are so many things to do—so many ways I could—should perhaps?—be spending my time. Maybe if I move very quickly now then I can squeeze in some of those other things before the day is done? Maybe I can attempt several things at once? How efficient that plan! Imagine all I could do today… All that I might complete.
To what end?
Something needs to be done. That is, life. I need to live well. Not pleasantly perhaps, but well. Not productively perhaps, but well. A well-lived life is the noblest goal, where “well-lived” is defined as a life lived in pursuit of virtue. And where virtue is defined as the improvement of well-being. And where well-being is the general movement of the dial away from the direction of suffering and towards the direction of comfort, happiness and peace. Part of this is how we actually live from moment to moment. How we spend our time. How we think, act and the attributes and opinions we develop, support and share.
So, the ends then are less the goal than the means by which we achieve them. Unless there is a fire we must hastily extinguish with water—and maybe not even then—it’s best we think and act slowly, at the pace of self-control and the cadence of reason. Let’s not do any more than one thing at once, and then let our lives become a passage and succession of disciplined thought and action: a form of individual endeavor—each as clear and complete as a single day between sunrise and sunset.
I think we all desire to do well. And by this, I mean to not just get by, but to complete our work to the level of satisfaction of a job well done. Only, so often we cannot see or remember this aim for the distraction and folly of intemperate living. We get lost along a meandering pathway of unworthy answered emotions; feelings which we hear and hastily hearken to like breadcrumbs carelessly followed into a dark wood; followed and consumed one-by-one until we look up, disoriented and confused, suddenly wanting the safe home we can no longer see, and striking out recklessly in the first direction our panicked mind suggests. It is then when we fail to do well. It's then when we suffer the consequence of our folly in not minding the way; of not looking carefully at the next breadcrumb before us before taking another measured step into the weeds, of not asking ourselves after the worth of such an endeavor, of not providing oversight of our want to consume and to possess and to satisfy the base desire to have.
I did not wake today to simply act and re-act
But to do well the things which are well
And to mind the things which are not
When I assess the next breadcrumb as worthwhile; only then will I proceed...slowly...to attend, engage and possibly possess or even consume the object of my determined will. But not without first lifting my head to look ahead at where I am going, not without noting where my next steps may take me, and looking back at where I've just been and considering where I wish to be overall. And if the breadcrumb is shrouded in shadows such that I cannot clearly know where these new steps will lead, then I will engage reason to reflect upon the merit and risk of such a venture—what good or bad may come of going into the dark after such a thing? And if my ruling faculty does then sanction the journey, I may next need to attend my fears, which perhaps plead with me to cower behind current secure ways: "Please, don't go! Don't bring us with you... We'd rather remain here. That thing you perceive in the darkness there - let someone else attend to it. Stay here with us. Stay - or think - just what we now know, and what is now safe, the reassuring certainty of our current certitude." I'll listen to my fears. And I'll give us an honest hearing. But then I'll turn and go - and drag the fearful me along into the dark should the better me decide the darkness a better place to go, and the place where all of me can best do our necessary work. All of me is going into the dark, for good or bad, and for the sake of right.