Slow down to get more done...better!

Post date: 22-Apr-2011 08:50:48

I’ve been involved in a bible reading marathon this week. A unique event in my experience, it’s a continuous reading of the King James Version of the Bible (400 years old this year) over five days. In running terms, it’s really more of a relay with the baton passing from reader to reader, day and night.

I’ve learned several unexpected things in the process that seemed of wide enough relevance to share my reflections.

Firstly, I now know how much our spoken language is influenced by this particular version of the Bible in ways that have nothing to do with religion. Every time you use common phrases such as describing someone as “salt of the earth”, talking about “wheels within wheels” or discussing “filthy lucre” you are actually unknowingly quoting from the King James Bible. The list of phrases it has injected into common usage is extensive – just google it if you don’t believe me!

The second thing that struck me is how lyrical and beautiful the writing is. Many of the stories contained in the bible remain familiar from childhood – where they were often distilled into simpler picture books for ease of understanding. However, I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the beauty of the language and the literature in this work. Moreover, it is definitely written to be read aloud. Strange as it seems, even to me, I would gladly have sat at the back of the church long past 1.30a.m. simply enjoying listening to the rhythms, cadence and lyrical language…had I not been acutely aware that my children would be unsympathetic to my cause come 6.00 a.m.!

Which brings me to my final learning, and the one I think has wider resonance for me and therefore hopefully for others too. This is a work which demands to be read slowly. The reading slots have been timed at fifteen minute intervals but at various points through the marathon, cross referencing the running order revealed that it was running several chapters ahead. It’s not that the timings were inaccurate but that we modern readers are inclined (especially when presented with a microphone) to gallop through. This beautiful, thoughtful piece of writing requires that we slow down, pause, allow our pace to be dictated by the work in hand.

And so I was reflecting how this lesson would be useful to me in many areas of my life. Do I really stop to listen and attend to the job in hand – whether that be a client, a child or a task? While I believe that I “attend” to my work in the superficial way of getting it done, am I doing so “attentively”? I’m not so sure. The realisation that doing so might not only bring more pleasure and enjoyment in the moment but also improve the quality and excellence inherent in the endeavour makes me believe it’s worth a focussed try!

It’s axiomatic that worrying about something else (e.g. a work deadline) while doing another task (e.g. spending time playing with the kids) neither furthers the deadline nor improves the quality of the interaction with the kids. Yet, even knowing this, it is so easy to fall into a pattern or habit of worrying. And so I think my Easter lesson this year is to combat that habit by slowing down and attending to every moment as I’m in it. This idea is neither new nor unique. It is echoed in almost every spiritual system of the world in some form and has found a modern popularity in the mindfulness movement. And yet somehow, even knowing all of this intellectually, it was the act of reading aloud slowly and deliberately in the small hours of the morning from a work of great lyricism that finally brought it home to me in a way that I feel I can follow for a while and see how it goes.

So have a slow and Happy Easter!