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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.

The fever of the rush to live

Fri, 14 Aug 2015 09:37:00 +0000 Published in Heraldo de Aragón

We all have the experience that the happiest moments in life are not usually those in which, at last, what we had hoped for arrived, but those that preceded that outcome. Let me give you an example. The happiness that a holiday brings us is usually obtained more on the eve of that holiday than on the holiday itself; for many people the best part of Sunday is in the wait for Sunday. That waiting generates illusion, which is an essential ingredient of happiness. The value of waiting and knowing how to wait should therefore be emphasized. To be happy consists primarily in going to be happy. Anticipation is more important than actual fruition (Julián Marías).

Waiting is a fundamental component of human life. We need enough time to leave childhood and adolescence, to learn a profession or official document, to fall in love, to discover and assimilate truths. The farmer counts on the time to wait for the harvest; the mother counts on the time to wait for the child to be born. Waiting is not passivity, but active availability towards what is approaching. All this is very advisable for a happy life. But these are not frequent attitudes in today's society, which is the society of the switch (with its instantaneous response), of prefabricated houses, of accelerated courses (learn English in 15 days), of immediate food, of the solarium (get a tan in three sessions). We are finding it increasingly difficult to adapt to the necessary pace at which things are maturing. Waiting is disappearing; people are less and less willing to wait. They want everything "here and now".

Men and women today are dominated by haste. Haste is to hurry, to do something before time or before it is planned; to rush. This accelerated way of living is a serious obstacle to inner freedom; it can occur at any age, although it is more frequent in the case of adolescents and young people. The latter are in an exaggerated hurry to try everything, to have everything subject of experiences (in some cases that of drugs).

Young people love speed. When they ride a motorcycle recklessly, they are trying to overcome their complexes and escape their fears. But there is something more worrying than excessive speed: haste. Excessive speed entails taking an absurd risk, but risk is affirmation, and therefore has some nobility. On the other hand, haste is always denial; it denotes a lack of confidence in life (which is why its stages and duration are not accepted). The worst thing is not to burn the stages on a road trip, but to burn the stages of life itself.

The "rush of life" is, for many young people today, a fever. The desire to gain access as soon as possible to the advantages and privileges of adult status (but without the effort and responsibility that this status entails) usually generates in many young people an agitation similar to that of a fever. It is a new gold rush, but without sacrifice.

In the realm of love, young people encounter environmental stimuli that push them not to wait. They are told that instinct must always be "liberated" in a total way. Sexuality is presented to them as a game, and love as a passion. It is added that any restriction or postponement of instinctual behavior would cause emotional imbalance and unhappiness. These messages reach them through literature, movies, songs, the Internet, television. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of these young people reduce love to premature eroticism.

Young people in a "hurry to live" believe that they will find happiness in the enjoyment of immediate pleasures. They live for the enjoyment of the instantaneous; they are thus installed in the ephemeral, in the fleeting, preventing their life from being a life with a history and a story. Prisoners of hedonistic instantaneity, they expect nothing from the future. And since the future does not exist, it is pointless to make any subject of project. They need someone to help them acquire the virtue of patience. Patience allows us to bear the inevitable inconvenience caused by goods that are slow in coming. It is necessary to tell them that it is possible to wait and that it pays to wait; also that impatience does not succeed in accelerating the rhythm of life: it is not because you get up early that you get up earlier.