I have a professional artist friend who had one work hanging on the wall in his home for a whole year before he decided it was finished and ready for public consumption. This same artist would say that, in his studio, he spends more time looking than he does painting.
Both those things are, for me, a salutary reminder. My tendency is to rush to get things finished because I like the completed item. At this time, however, with few deadlines, it is eminently possible to slow down and really contemplate where a piece is at, what it still needs and what would give it that ‘final 2%’ to lift it to its best possible being.
I think it extends beyond art. I think our default position in life is to hurry. The concept of ‘smelling the roses’ is not our natural state. Indeed, it’s a concept of which we need reminding via affirmations, inspirational quotes and the like. We have apps to help us remain calm, we have posters advocating a peaceful existence, some have Netflix to give them an excuse to stop.
What would our world be like if we spent more time looking than doing? More time thinking than acting? I find it hard to imagine. There would be a slower pace, I suppose. More consideration would be given to undertakings and perhaps there would be fewer mistakes made.
In some ways, the current pandemic has caused just such a slow-down as both the capacity for our output and the availability of input has been compromised. COVID-19 has interrupted the commonplace bustle of life with a more relaxed rhythm, enforced and not desirable, certainly, but our daily reality nonetheless. Target has sold out of jigsaw puzzles, my daughter has taken up cross stitch, online browsing and, inevitably, shopping has taken over from belting around the shops. People are making games in their houses, dressing up to put their bins out, taking their children for walks. Even those working from home, while the intensity of business may be heightened without the usual interruptions from colleagues and occasional informal chat, the commute is non-existent, the necessity to present in quite the same ‘work mode’ is reduced and the daily dislocation from one’s residence removed.
Many things are flourishing. Care for others, contact with friends and family and humorous offerings in all sorts of places now fill and characterise my days. The environment is breathing the fresh air of reduced traffic and industry. The speed of passing time is different and I wasn’t even particularly busy before. I can only imagine how some people are having to adjust. That won’t be easy for many, especially those forced out of work, and their memories of the pandemic may not be as generous as those of others. Frustration, boredom, desperation, fear and risk-taking are almost certainly heightened in some quarters. Such is our societal unaccustomed-ness to a slower and restricted pace.
This is our chance to smell the roses. This is our chance to take a moment to look and evaluate. This is a time to think about what we need, what will make our lives better when this is all over. I suppose most things will ramp up to their previous rate – so many things depend on that now – but there may be some imprint left, some leftover sense of quiet that we keep for a little bit longer.