Does a slower, more deliberate approach to life yield better fruit?

Instant gratification is the desire to experience the pleasure we desire without any delay or deferment. Essentially, it's getting or experiencing things when we want them - and we want a lot of things like right now.

The environment we've created only fuels this lust.

It feels like everything is or can be instant.

I can order a 12 pack of toilet paper and a bag of beans from Amazon, and it'll be at my doorstep door in two hours.

And so can you.

If we aren't careful, the by-product of this existence is that we enter a being of perpetual harvest mode.

At every turn, we expect to collect a crop with the least amount effort.

We have people in their late twenties expecting to have deep, rich careers similar to those who have been toiling for decades at their work.

We have people expecting that an ounce of effort can undue decades of unhealthy habits.

We have herds of creative people who do more complaining than creating but expect to be prized craftsmen.

The rise of convenience to say "yes" to other things gives us access to field a crop when our first attempt doesn't work out.

Instant gratification gives us a way out when things get hard, take more time than we prefer, or require repeated bouts of banal effort.

And so we bounce around.

But when we get to the bottom of our own bag of tricks, we realize that the instant gratification is facile. It's as deep as a rain puddle in the Atacama Desert.

The key, then, is to shift the focus back onto something worthwhile. Rather than allowing the ease of distraction to pull us into short-term walkovers, lets pivot our gaze onto things that we agree are virtuous: love, contribution, personal growth.

These things - love, contribution and personal growth - all take time to develop. There is no instant download version for these aspects of life.

There are no appreciable alternatives.

This presents a problem given the environment of the "microwave" society we've crafted for ourselves today. In order to learn how to develop these substantive ares of life, we need to learn a new skill.

We've got to learn how to prune new fruit.

In a vineyard, the vine keeper has one job - to make sure that old fruit matures.

They know that that if a vine is not regularly pruned, the new fruit will inevitably start to siphon resources from the older, more aged fruit-bearing parts of the vine. 

By allowing new fruit to perpetually grow, the vine will yield a harvest of forgettable quality.  The aged fruit will suffer in order to support the growth of new fruit. 

In other words, the vine doesn't have the bandwidth to grow and support that much fruit. 

We too as humans must develop the skill of "pruning" new fruit in our lives. Like the vine, we only have a certain amount of bandwidth to support a handful of meaningful pursuits. 

When we allow a superabundance of new fruit to grow in our lives due to the ease of distraction, we became dangerously vulnerable to yielding a harvest of forgettable quality in the ares we deem most important - love, contribution, personal growth. 

In order to mature these priorities we declare as chief, we've got to learn how to prune new fruit from our lives in order to preserve the energy and space needed to thrive in the areas that matter most to us. 

A probable reason why this reads easier on the screen than it does in execution is that these dense ares of life - love, contribution, personal growth - are not bounded by time. 

They don't thrive with deadlines or conditions. 

This drives us mad. 

We like to feel in control of things, don't we? Technology has equipped with somewhat of an illusion that we can manipulate time. 

However, we can't download the wisdom of being married for 33 years.

We can't buy the influence gained by serving the local community as the high school basketball coach for 13 years.

We can't install an app and suddenly have the spiritual depth of someone who has been meditating for 20 years. 

These things take time and we can't speed them up. 

So rather than putting a deadline on these things, or pursuing them with conditional commitments, what if we declared that these virtues were to be nurtured for the rest of our lives?

This idea points me to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic. She says this: 

I sent my work out to publications, and I collected rejection letters in return. I kept up with my writing, despite the rejections. I labored over my short stories alone in  my bedroom - and also in train stations, in stairwells, in libraries, in public parks, and in the apartments of various friends, boyfriends, and relatives. I sent more and more work out. I was rejected, rejected, rejected, rejected. 

I disliked the rejection letters. Who wouldn't? But I took the long view: My intention was to spend my entire life in communion with writing, period. 

Her posture assumed no deadline or conditional committment in regards to her writing - she was all-in to nurture her contribution for the rest of her life. By vowing to preserve the energy to writing, she also pruned the possibilities of other creative outlets. 

She understands that the magnitude of her personal pursuit transcends a deadline: It deserves a lifetime.

This stance allows her to be authentic. It gives her room to be focused, but not hurried.  

This concept of dedicating the rest of our breathes to something seems dramatic. But love, contribution and personal growth don't have a finish line - they offer a lifetime of opportunity. 

These are the things we avow with our words as the meaning of life.

So maybe, just maybe, the idea of pledging our lives to develop these areas without a deadline isn't so radical?

Perhaps the opposite posture we've adopted - an instantly quantifiable existence in every corner of life - is the thing that is counter cultural. 

Could it be that a slower, more deliberate approach to life yields better fruit?

To find out, we must venture in this direction. 

If we get lost, we can always turn back. That option will be always be there. 

 

 

End notes:

Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert and Todd Henry for helping prompt this piece. 

Big Magic

The Accidental Creative