We rarely have time these days to stop, to pause, to think and more importantly to observe things around us. The smart (or dumb) phone, depending on your point of view, has drawn our attention and taken up even those few extra minutes of spare time that we have. More importantly it is taking over our senses, not allowing us to observe and appreciate the things around us anymore. We have become so immodest that we would rather use our phone to capture a beautiful sunset, a gorgeous flower, or a stunning moment and share it on our Facebook and Instagram profiles, than to observe and appreciate it with our own eyes (I read somewhere that this is having an adverse impact on our memory too!). After all those five likes on Facebook are very important to our egos these days!
Rant over, my point still revolves around the fact that we just don't stop to observe things anymore; we live our lives minute to minute just trying to keep up with all the distractions and stimuli around us. And so, this morning, as I was walking towards the station, I stopped for a few minutes because something caught my attention. Mind you, I was already running late, and my Blackberry was buzzing, but I had to stop and watch because it was fascinating. It was something I had never observed before, and probably never had the time to appreciate before.
To set the context, we live in a neighborhood in London that is clean and green, blessed with an abundance of open spaces, parks and more importantly gigantic trees... The kind that spread their branches far and wide and provide shade from the blazing sun in the summer heat... Also the kind that come autumn shed their leaves heavily creating piles of old brown, dried leaves on the sidewalks. As you walk along this path at this time of the year, the leaves, crisp and brown, crunch under your feet making that unmistakable sound that tells you that it is autumn and that winter is arriving soon. But as the months roll on and the leaves keep falling, the path can get overcrowded and messy.
How is it that every morning all those paths are cleared of these leaves? How is it that our walk is made hassle and mess free and that we don't have to trudge through a pile of old, brown and drying leaves? Have we stopped to think about it? Well, for the first time this morning, I did. And as I stopped to watch the street cleaner patiently clear the sidewalk, I couldn't help but marvel. He went about his job meticulously, sweeping up the piles of leaves under each tree, creating mini hills of leaves that he would gather up in his dust pan and eventually dump it into a hand cart he was pulling around. He did it calmly, patiently and without too much fuss. It was interesting to note though that as he moved down along the path, and the leaves kept falling, he didn't get flustered, wasn't irritated, didn't lose his patience. He just calmly finished the pile he was at, walked back and swept up those few extra leaves. The trees continued to tease him, continued to shed the leaves almost as though testing him, urging him to lose his patience. He didn't! He just kept at it quietly, all the while listening to his headphones and whistling along, sweeping away. I wondered how long he would keep at it... How long would he keep going back to those piles? It was a long street and there were plenty of trees that were changing their guise with the approach of winter.
How was he so patient? How was he so tolerant, so oblivious to everything else around him? It doesn't take much for me to lose my patience at work regularly, with silly requests, odd comments and strange responses from clients, bankers and the like. Were I to keep getting the same request from the client over and over again, similar to these leaves falling constantly, I am sure I would not have reacted the same way? Would I go back and just mop them up? Should I be changing my approach to life and just deal patiently and calmly at whatever life threw at me? surely there was a lesson to be learnt here, and I am glad that I took my eyes off that phone and spent a few minutes to observe and learn it. I guess, as the saying goes, you learn something new every day! Add to that, you never know where that learning may come from.
Sadly I didn't have the time to stay and watch longer. Those two minutes of pausing and observing had taken their toll - the world wanted me back; it needed me back. Sadly it didn't display or have the same degree of patience and tolerance I had just observed. The blackberry was now buzzing furiously and it was time to once again let my senses be overloaded by the iPhone, Instagram and social media. And I knew the seasons would come and go, leaves would fall and bloom again before I took another two minutes out of my morning to stand, observe and learn a new life lesson!