In the west we are preoccupied with success. We feel as if we are not living life to the fullest if we take a minute to slow down, as if we are missing out on the precious 80 or so years on earth we get to call our own. We need to be constantly on the move until there is nothing left we truly need or want.
This endless cycle has left me quite perplexed. Is this what we all want? Is this constant rush what I want? Many of us want a job where we feel fulfilled as we will spend most of our life doing it. Some achieve fulfillment by attaining the highest level of power and influence in an office. For others, living with and studying Gorillas might be the dream. For others still, purpose may be found in the army where adrenaline is high. Having goals to strive for is what gives people their purpose. As without purpose, too many of us will question “what is the point?”, which can be a dangerous road to head down.
Our purpose is not something that can be answered generically. I personally believe human beings don’t need to have a purpose, and that’s okay. We don’t need a reason to be somewhere, to be there. We should live without wanting some greater explanation or path. Some may choose to believe differently and that their lives have individual meaning giving them a sense of peace and wellbeing. The reality is that we will never know, so we can believe whatever we want. That’s the beauty of looking into these aspects of life – there is no right or wrong.
This way of thinking was challenged when I spent a few weeks in Sudan over New Year a few years ago. The Sudanese people’s way of thinking was different, their way of living was different
I’m sure many people have thought about this concept themselves and made something personal out of it. But people’s views are considerably different depending on where you grew up. For example, I grew up in London, surrounded by ambitious people determined to leave a mark in this world and have their names known and remembered. All were determined to achieve a certain level of success, believing that it would be the key to their happiness. And for a while, I believed everyone was like this, especially when young, wanting to spend their time preoccupied with something that will provide them with fortune, happiness and success, otherwise… what’s the point?
This way of thinking was challenged when I spent a few weeks in Sudan over New Year a few years ago. The Sudanese people’s way of thinking was different, their way of living was different, the way they walked was different, what they discussed was different. My observance was particularly enhanced as I didn’t have an internet connection and had nothing else to do other than watch the locals around me in their natural environment, in the park, in a shopping centre and at home.
What stood out the most was that everything was slow. Things weren’t done efficiently, but leisurely. All from buying bread, hitching a car ride, walking to the river, to work or to school, none of it was done as if they needed to be somewhere else, doing something else, to achieve something else. The entire atmosphere was different. Whether or not this can be attributed to the scorching heat, the people’s devotion to religion or the fact that Sudan is a less economically developed country is another story.
What stood out the most was that everything was slow
But how they took their time with it all was certainly interesting. Decision making, physical movement, all aspects that make up life were done slowly. Did this make me reconsider the speed of how I live? Not particularly. It sounds peculiar, but I don’t want my life to be that slow. But it is the life for them, as they’ve had this experience their whole lives.
Are they happier? Do they have fewer worries, fewer interests? Does napping at 2 pm due to the heat and worshiping God for periods of the day enable you to live a less rushed life and find mindfulness and peace? In the West, in our busy-ness, we arguably have less time available in the day to worry about life’s fundamental questions, such as the correct way to live and life after death… but does this faster way of living lead to bigger psychological and mental health problems?
Does a slower life enable less loneliness? I know that London is considered to be one of the loneliest cities in the world, but as I grew up in it I never thought this was the case. I don’t consider myself lonely, yet maybe in comparison to the Sudanese people I am the loneliest person they’ve ever met? It’s all about perspective, what you know and what you want out of your 80 odd years. Maybe having ambition, something to strive for is what makes you happy, or maybe it’s having the ‘I’ll do it later’ mindset that will enable you to truly find peace.
The world has become so connected that we are all exposed to different ways of life to see what kind of lifestyle could bring us peace. When I went to Sudan, I saw that the Sudanese people don’t have the same wants and needs as I do. People tend to want what they know, they have a certain lifestyle, and it looked like the people I saw didn’t want to change.
Different communities prioritise different things, but are we all so different? We are all humans after all and have the same basic needs. The basic needs are things we need to survive, like food, water, and shelter. On another level we all possess different desires, some may like the colour red, others green. On yet another level, we exhibit the same tendencies as every other human on the planet, tendencies that identify us solely as the same species – spiritual needs, like love, happiness, and mindful well being. Perhaps those are the attributes that make us all the same no matter the ideas, priorities and beliefs we grew up with.
We live and are measured differently and find moments of joy and sadness in different things in our respective environments
The UK is considerably more economically developed than Sudan. This could be the main reason for such a major difference in the way of living between the two populations. I don’t believe that people in Sudan are happier than people in the UK. We live and are measured differently and find moments of joy and sadness in different things in our respective environments. I cannot claim to know whether deep down we are all the same or are all different, yet some people are brought up with a slow lifestyle and it is sought out by others. We don’t all live life in the fast lane, but those who do may benefit from spending some time doing things ‘slowly’ a little more than life in a Western city typically encourages.
Rubli Carran, London, United Kingdom