The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
On the Ill-Effects of Hurry

by Mabel Escombe
Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 948-952

"People imagine that they gain by hurry, but in nine cases out of ten they part with a treasure far more valuable . . . Hurry tends to confusion. In affairs, it is what discord and false time are in music. The melody is blurred, the harmony marred."

"No two things differ more than hurry and despatch.
Hurry is the mark of a weak mind; despatch of a strong one."—C.C. Colton.

There are two bits of advice which doctors are fond of giving amid the stress and rush of modern life. They are, Do not hurry, and, Do not worry. Patients smile faintly at the seemingly simple remedy, yet cross the threshold conscious that these orders are difficult, perhaps well-nigh impossible, to carry out. For the hard-pressed man of business, the few extra minutes at his desk may mean more than he fancies he can lose. He lingers long, runs hurriedly to catch a train and the effort is too great, an over-taxed heart fails. I may be, again, the burdened mother of a family who struggles on small means to do the best by her children and live honestly before God and her neighbours. As often as one trouble is laid to rest, some fresh anxiety follows, and she looks wearily for the calm which, this side of the grave, appears always out of reach. There are, too, many others. On one hand, the public man with a position to maintain and a thousand duties imposed by very reason of this position. On the other, the woman of fashion and society, her days crowded to overflowing with self-made, self-pleasing engagements.

We have only to look around at our own friends and acquaintances in order to recognize those who habitually hurry under every circumstance and condition of life. The world has somehow lost the grace of patience. In its own slang it calls upon each laggard to "hurry up," and meets with only too ready an obedience. As outcome may everywhere be traced, want of thoroughness, want of stability and want of repose, with the inevitable sequel of direct loss. To do a thing well, most would agree that it should be undertaken with might; in other words, that it receive the full direction of hands, head and heart. To ensure an indifferent result, it is only needful to withhold the best endeavours of the limbs, to evade the teaching of the mind, to stifle the promptings of the affections. It is to be untrue to ourselves, and, as a natural consequence, false to some person or trust, forgetful of our religious and moral training, unfaithful to the Great Taskmaster, for whom "all service is true service."

Each call awaiting, each individual, demands so much attention. The time may be limited to minutes and hours, or may merge into months and years. It may be the life-work chosen from amongst all others, or accepted as an entirely distasteful duty. None can lay down rules for another's following, except on large general principles; the detail perforce remains a matter of personal choice. Yet, amid such wide guiding influences, every person ought to feel that by striving to push two tasks or two pleasures into the space claimed by one alone, he or she is struggling against forces which, where matter is in question, represent one of the great immutable laws of the world. Why should not the same hold good in the sense that what is due, measure for measure, from ourselves to ourselves, as well as to our neighbours, should not be shortened by untimely brevity? That nothing be robbed of its own firm foot-hold, its allotted displacement, its due allowance of time, or thought, of room or even of consideration.

Everyone knows the meaning of the term, a "jerry-built house." Nobody has any wish to live in such a dwelling. Probably, and before very long, the tiles will fall off, the windows let in wet, the walls blossom into unsightly patches of damp and the wind wails through shrunken doors till those within shiver by their own fire-side. The house was, as people say, "run up" in a hurry. It is neither strong, nor secure, nor, after a few years, will it be safe. Such a building is typical of the age of hurry. Against the fragments of an ancient priory wall, well-nigh ten centuries old, a row of villas like this is set down as it were in horrid mockery. In early days, they built slowly, but they left work worth inheriting, and those who pass may, if they will, find a contrast between the endurance of past effort and the fragility of present inefficacy, and take their lesson to heart.

The "jerry-built house" is not unlike the slovenly results which mark some people's lives. There may be an object in view, but the scatter-brained, fitful pursuit, if it ever achieve anything at all, is marred for lack of that strong purpose which become the foundation-stone of success.

A man who ends a day's work into which he has put every fibre of energy at command sits down rightfully satisfied to enjoy an evening's leisure. He feels, and feels truly, that he earned the repose and that it is as important as his work. It is his neighbour who suffers from sleeplessness, the skilled mechanic who, at the close of fixed working hours, does not rest at home, but throws himself into local, municipal matters which engross his attention late into the night and rob himself of slumber and the world at large of that nearer, better interest which one less occupied could bestow.

Far down the ages, to cheer each honest toiler, has traveled the whisper, "The sleep of the labouring man is sweet." How is it, then, that on all sides, men and women sigh only for the refreshment which change and freedom from employment shall bring? Never were holidays more general or more in demand. Surely, it must be that the peace of mind in which people fail inwardly, they try to find in new surroundings.

Want of repose is at the heart of the individual. He both makes and reflects the times in which he lives. Each deplores the want in others but does not recognize its absence in himself. Thus, aided and abetted by the growth of modern desires, the influence of modern inventions, the hurry of life spreads ever further and further. People imagine that they gain by hurry, but in nine cases out of ten they part with a treasure far more valuable.

Scamped, untidy work is no recommendation for the workman. It is certainly very bad for the character, whilst, by frequent indulgence in hurried habits, the sense of discrimination is dulled. As had been said:—"Till we are persuaded to stop and step a little aside, out of the noisy crowd and incumbering hurry of the world and calmly take a prospect of things, it will be impossible we should be able to make a right judgment of ourselves."

Hurry tends to confusion. In affairs, it is what discord and false time are in music. The melody is blurred, the harmony marred. The player is as open to misinterpretations as the work which he would reveal, and there no longer exists that calm, sympathetic flow of understanding which should bind the listener to the performer.

The person habitually hurried is his own worst commentator, and outwardly robs himself of all those good qualities he doubtless possesses at heart. He has no time for the kindly word of comfort, the letter of consolation, the warm grasp of well-wishing. He has, too, often no time for such higher duties as alone attune to calm amid the wear and tear of every-day turmoil. If St. Francis de Sales two hundred years ago found reason to write that, "Hurry is the death of prayer," what would he say now that the most rapidly moving century has closed behind, whilst the world is still upon the threshold of one which is perhaps destined to outstrip all its forerunners?

By hurry, the upward, striving impulses of the soul are stunted and starved. They are denied the needful food and freedom upon which growth is conditional and the fair, full, divine afflatus [inspiration] that might be the in-dwelling heritage of each is forbidden an entrance. Nor is this loss always unconscious. Too often, the greater number are keenly alive to the injury of their own haste. Yet, once caught in the whirl, they find it easier to yield to the on-flowing tide than stem its strong current alone. Hurry results in constant friction. It chafes and destroys, wearing away, bit by bit, the restfulness which is the visible token of a blessed, interior peace. The hurried man acts like an irritant in any gathering of fellow-men. He comes late, stands to hastily swallow the proffered refreshment, gives a scant hearing to what is said to him, or answers whilst listening to another's reply. Then he is well away before anyone is alive to his meteor-like passage. The abruptness of such coming and going takes away from any pleasure to be found therein. At times it savours almost of rudeness, and is indeed as much a discourtesy in effect as it seems to be intention. There is the feeling that conversation would hinder, that our small manner of speech might seem ineffective, and the hurried guest gives an impression of being too entirely engrossed to enter into interests beyond those that directly concern himself. By his own attitude, he puts up a barrier, refuses those opportunities which offer for enlarging his affections, misses the call to a wider brotherhood, and possibly passes by those "fragments" which, gathered by the patient, slower seeker, go far to enrich and complete a fuller intellectual and spiritual life. The homely phrase says, "More haste, worse speed," and this counsel is not only for the early toddler who has yet to find his childish balance. The hare is ever ready to look down upon the tortoise, though today, as much as in the time of the old fabulist [one who writes fables], it may be proved over and over again that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.

In one of Washington Irving's sketches, written as long ago as the beginning of the last century, he speaks thus of London and its inhabitants:—

"Those who see the Englishman only in town are apt to form an unfavourable opinion of his social character. He is either absorbed in business, or distracted by the thousand engagements that dissipate time, thought and feeling in this huge metropolis. He has, therefore, too commonly a look of hurry and abstraction. Wherever he happens to be, he is on the point of going somewhere else; at the moment he is talking on one subject, his mind is wandering to another; and while passing a friendly visit, he is calculating how he shall economize time so as to pay the other visits allotted in the morning. An immense metropolis, like London, is calculated to make men selfish and uninteresting. In their casual and transient meetings, they can but deal briefly in commonplaces. They present but the cold superficies of character, its rich and genial qualities have no time to be warmed into a flow."

Hurry leads to loss of judgment. It is the calm, abstracted mind that can be looked to for a wise, dispassionate verdict.

Hurry, again, not unreasonably narrows human interest, for it is scarcely possible to shower benefits upon those who never have time to respond to or meet the kindly advances of their neighbours. Hurry flies further and further from the ideal of true perfection. All sense of beauty and pure repose is hurt by intrusive, ill-directed haste. As has been said:—

"The basic element of Madame Guilbert's art is quietude, and so is the art of Madame Sarah Bernhardt in the ineffable scene in Phedre."

In the search for knowledge, it is the patient, arduous seeker who, for long years, maybe a life-time, toils and bestows the labour of mind and body to perfect that discovery which shall by-and-by win for him a world-fame. Hurry is not found in the dictionary of a Raphael, a Herschel, a Stephenson, a Darwin, or a Nansen, nor in that of any of those great, scientific discoverers whose toil builds up the pillars of art and science by which the lofty temple of knowledge adds fragment to fragment.

Education, to be thorough, must be a gradual training. Yet, the prompting of impetuosity, the instinct to outstrip fellow-workers, the desire for independence of action and choice, the anxiety to throw off restraint, all these become inducements to an unnatural speed. It was to remind the students of Glasgow of such influences at work that Lord Rosebery, when addressing them in 1900, gave this advice:—

"Through the great gate (of the University) you see the world spread out and you are eager to be in it. Do not hurry, you will be in it soon enough."

The feeling that rules and obstructs so many in the onward race is fear of loss. Each strives for some personal advantage lest another should step in and seize the prize or post at which he aims. The real loss, on the contrary, springs from what is overlooked by the way. Thus Ruskin has said of traveling—"All traveling becomes dull in exact proportion to its rapidity," and though his prejudices were exceptional, it must be allowed that the rate at which an express train passes through usually the most flat and uninteresting tracts of country, represents a direct miss of that indirect education which may be drawn from Nature's teaching in a quieter and more thoughtful passage.

Hurry is an evidence of weakness. It has no relation with either stateliness or dignity. It brings no welcome refreshment. It provides no staunch defence. It suggests lack of stamina and resource.

"A fool always wants to shorten space and time; a wise man wants to lengthen both. A fool wants to kill space and time; a wise man first to gain them, then to animate them."

A English traveler at the house of an American lady, in New York, was, not long ago and on the principles of Goldwin Smith, advocating the annexation of Canada with the United States:—

"Oh!" exclaimed the hostess, with marked pathos and eagerness, "in the hurry, and the bustle, and the rush of our life, leave us Canada with its tranquility and peacefulness!"

There are still those who feel keenly this want in the midst of modern existence with its crowds, its excitement, its "incessant maladif [sickly] restlessness," and yet who, in spite of themselves, seem powerless to resist. This feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, where the individual is concerned, is common in the face of all great social problems. None can, alone, stem the advance of an ever-widening, ever-growing civilization and all attendant aids to speed, commerce, intercourse, and thought-transmission. It is, however, within the compass of each to attain a repose of mind and body which shall provide an unvarying calm for those who come within reach of its quietude, whilst creating a marked impression.

Such natures are to be found. They contain the elements of the lofty, contemplative temperament which was so marked and coveted a development during the Middle Ages. Nor can any age altogether part with the type to its own advantage. It is needed now more than ever to check the latter-day push and enterprise, to provide an energy controlled and ruled by patience. The man who possesses such qualifications has endless opportunities for serving his fellowmen. When he crosses their path he is recognised as influenced and led by higher forces than general. His manner bespeaks him as standing somewhat apart, a little above the hurrying, human level:—"Gentle, calm, serene, full of power, but with no trace of restlessness."

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Feb 2009