The modern world’s obsession with speed is the focus of this assembly for secondary schools. It looks at whether doing things quickly really is of that much benefit, and questions whether, by focusing on doing things quickly, we are appreciating them less
A line-up of a number of pupils who will be interviewed one by one by an incredulous interviewer.
Suitable props and the use of a microphone would be helpful. Interviews should be fast-paced and energetic!
Reader 1: Today, I’m interviewing a number of people, each of whom has a unique claim to fame in our school! Once I have carried out all of my interviews, I will get you all to vote on which one you think is the most impressive! So, number one, your claim to fame is?
Reader 2: (Clutching a mug) Me? I can drink a whole cup of coffee in one point three four seconds.
Reader 1: Doesn’t it burn a bit?
Reader 2: Can do, but it’s over so fast I don’t really notice.
Reader 1: And the coffee, what does it taste like at such incredible speeds?
Reader 2: (shrugs) Don’t know actually
Reader 1: Thank you number one! (To audience) I would have liked number one to demonstrate this amazing feat to you, but he’s already drunk all his coffee. So, on to number two. What acts of skill and daring have you got to offer us?
Reader 3: I can recite the whole of Shakespeare’s (must say quote super fast) “To be or not to be” in two and a half seconds.
Reader 1: Sorry, did you just say (recite slowly and dramatically) “To be or not to be?”
Reader 3: Yes, that’s what I said – (super fast again) – “to be or not to be”
Reader 1: And can anyone understand you when you recite it all?
Reader 3: (shrugs) Don’t know actually
Reader 1: (Starting to look a bit troubled by all that he’s heard so far…) Well, thank you – I think maybe we’ll skip your performance of that wonderful and eloquent soliloquy. So, number three, what’s your skill, I suppose you can play Beethoven’s fifth symphony in under a minute?
Reader 4: (Looks oddly at Reader 1) Don’t be daft – no, I can sing “You’ll never walk alone” in under 30 seconds
Reader 1: Right….. I see…… and, stupid question really, but does it sound like the song? Stop, let me guess – (shrugs in imitation) ‘you don’t know actually’?
Reader 4: Just looks at Reader 1 blankly
Reader 1: Well audience, you’ve heard about our participants, erm, skills. (Next line said without any pause at all between first and second sentence.) So I’m going to give you a chance to vote on them. Too late!
You may have heard of the popular computer game, “Need for Speed”. Since when did speed become a need? Food, clothing, shelter, love, care, compassion – they are needs [pause]. But speed? Life is lived faster and faster in today’s world. Things which used to take time can now be completed in double-quick time – leaving us lots of time left over. [Pause.] But to do what exactly? Wouldn’t the time be better spent taking a longer amount of time to do things properly, or with care? What’s so precious about all that time that we save? Do we really fill it with anything truly worthwhile?
You might have thought that the people in the little drama you have just heard have missed the whole point of the activity they are claiming to be able to do so fast. Surely the point of a cup of coffee is the enjoyment of savouring its warmth and its subtle and delicate flavours? How do you experience this enjoyment if you drink it down so fast that you can’t even taste it? And as for reciting Shakespeare so quickly that you can barely make out the words – what would be the point? The whole point in the work of Shakespeare is that it flows, and stops, and pauses, and creates pictures in your mind which provoke reactions and feelings. It would be a clever party trick to gabble it all out in seconds, but it would mean very little. And who would want a song over so quickly that you can barely hear any of it? Your iPod can download a whole album in seconds, but you wouldn’t want to listen to it at that speed, would you?
And then there’s fast food and fast journeys and super fast telecommunications and everything in a hurry. Why? With the world whizzing past us like this, are we even noticing it? In our hurry to fill our lives with so much so quickly, aren’t we just missing the whole point of it all?
Last week, some findings of a UK government review into “Britain’s broadband infrastructure” suggested that the possible cost of replacing Britain’s copper telephone wires with hi-tech fibre could cost – now listen carefully – at least twenty four point five billion pounds. Yes, I said billion. Now let me make sure that you understood what I have just said. To improve our broadband services in the UK could cost at least twenty four point five billion pounds.
Now what kinds of benefits might we get for this staggering amount of money? Well, it would mean that broadband speeds could be increased from eight megabits per second to up to [pause] one hundred megabits per second. But what does that mean in real terms for you and me? Well. One thing is that you would be able to download a whole movie in seconds instead of minutes. Of course it will take you the same amount of time to watch it as it did before, but at least you’ll know that it only took seconds to download, and that only twenty four point five billion pounds was spent in making that incredible feature available to you.
Now, you could think about how many far better ways there might be to spend twenty four point five billion pounds, but that would just be too easy. So instead, let’s look at it this way. Perhaps taking things easy, at a gentler pace, isn’t such a horrifying prospect after all. Perhaps if we all slowed down a little and took some time to do – well – almost anything, the world could be a better place. Perhaps there are some things which aren’t meant to be done quickly, but rather savoured, reflected upon, enjoyed and appreciated as they gently unfold.
All the world’s major religions stress the importance of reflection, thoughtfulness and taking things at a more sedate pace. Buddhists refer to mindfulness – to living in the moment and appreciating each aspect of each moment. Christian values stress the importance of taking time to notice the needs of others and respond to them in a purposeful way. An example of this can be found in the story of the Good Samaritan, when the Priest and the Levite appear to hurry on by, whereas the Samaritan stops and carefully tends to the needs of his neighbour. Humanists also stress the importance of making the most of every minute of this life, as it is – in their view – the only one you get.
Are you living life too fast? Would you benefit from slowing down and taking in what’s around you? Are you doing things so quickly that you have loads of time left over and don’t really know what to do with it? What rewards might there be in slowing things down a little? Maybe you’ve never tried…
Listen to these words which you may make a prayer if you like:[To be said slowly……]
Everything hurrying, rushing, speeding, moving so fastNo time to savour it, it must be done, it must be done NowWhy?There are clouds to watch as they form and dissolveThere are friendships to make and to nurtureThere are times when it is right just to stopTo look aroundTo take it all inAnd justToUnderstandSome things just take time
Let me take time to recognise them
This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2008
About the author: Joe Walker