I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find the on-the-go-go-go, in-your-face attitude of the Northeast a little bit, shall we say, overwhelming. While I do appreciate its honesty and directness, I’ve spent nearly half of my life south of the Mason-Dixon line and I’ve come to appreciate the more relaxed pace of life that the South has to offer. While behind the wheel the other day, my time in Dixie tempered my desire to “get ahead of that guy” in the car next to me and just chill in my own lane. And really, where is everyone going in such a hurry anyway? When you consider that by rushing around like a maniac you maybe save one, whole minute (or 6.7%) of your 15-minute drive to the store to buy some stuff you probably don’t need, it all seems kind of silly.
The manic pace of “Keeping up with the Jones” is something else I’ve recently put aside. The last thing I need is a bigger house or more expensive car to represent an extension of my manhood. In general, I’m working on simplifying my life and disconnecting from the constant suck on my time and attention that is the cyber world. Other than this effort you’re currently reading and a few pertinent e-mails, I’ve recently begun a month-long hiatus from Facebook and other social networking. Why, you ask? Well, I recently stumbled upon a book (a real one made of paper and not an e-book) that piqued my interest: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. It’s waiting for me at the library after placing a hold request on it (yes, I also saved myself about $20 by slowing down, exercising patience, and not indulging my need for instant gratification). I have yet to read it but its subject matter certainly intrigues me; it asks if our brains are literally wiring themselves differently (and in children, developing differently) in this age of sound bites, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook status updates, and clicking from one Web page to another after just a few seconds. Are we losing our ability to think deeply about important topics? I’ll admit, I’ve noticed my skills of concentration don’t seem to be what they used to be and I sometimes find myself skimming even short online articles so I can click through to the next link. And let’s be honest: You don’t become good at anything by doing it for 30 seconds at a clip. What I really want is to experience real life by making stuff, being an expert on at least one thing, sweating, getting my hands dirty, spending time with my family, going places, existing beyond cyberspace. By simply slowing down and absorbing what I can—not everything that’s out there.
And I’m sensing that I’m not alone in this belief of less being more. Architect Sarah Susanka wrote a book, The Not So Big House, back in 1998, which has picked up steam in the ensuing years since the real estate bust and recession. Her premise is that a much smaller, well-designed house, using high-quality materials, can easily serve our needs while saving money and resources. And the homebuilding industry is already responding to this attitude shift by designing smaller homes. That said, the “McMansions” with their massive master suites, home offices, mudrooms, billiards rooms, formal dining rooms for 20, and media rooms may simply be going the way of the dinosaur.
Getting rid of unnecessary stuff is also part of my epiphany. A couple of weekends ago, I went through my dresser and closet to figure out what clothes I wear and which have been taking up room. The result? I put together an enormous garbage bag full of clothes for this fall’s Trinty Church Annual Rummage Sale and cleared out an entire drawer’s worth of space. Now if I can just slow down enough to find the time to have my own garage sale, we’ll be in business.
The writer of The Balanced Guy, Roman Horoszewski, is not particularly balanced but he’s trying to be. He makes an effort by not only doing “guy stuff,” but also by spending time with his three sons and wife while attempting to remain informed about the world around him. He and his family live in the Princeton, N.J. area. His blog is at thebalancedguy.blogspot.com.