More Haste, Less Speed

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This ancient and well known proverb has many applications, not least of which is when it is applied to the achievement of objectives.

Objectives are food for the soul. They provide us with a focus upon which to act and set a guiding path for us to follow. Their successful achievement provides a source of pleasure and can enhance both our self-esteem and our feeling of personal accomplishment. Conversely, consistent failure to achieve our objectives can have a negative effective upon our psychological health. We should be aware therefore, of the potential pitfalls that may undermine our attempts to achieve what we desire in life.

One such potential pitfall along our path, that we need to be vigilant against, is impatience. We require an appreciation of realistic time scales in order to reach our goals. That ancient and well known proverb 'More Haste Less Speed' is admirably applicable in this context. Many a goal can be achieved by the careful planning combined with the steady execution of the plan. Rushing to finish, or hastening to move on to the next stage can be counterproductive; it serves only to threaten the desired outcome of our endeavours.

The story below is one such example of where the achievement of a simple objective was challenged by the intrusion of impatience. A true story where more haste meant less speed.

I had spent an interesting 5 days driving down from Kano, state capital of northern Nigeria, to Benue state in the south, exploring various places of interest enrolee. It had been an enjoyable, though at times stressful, journey. The roads were mainly lacking a tarmac surface and security was becoming an increasing concern the further south I drove. Finally, in a very small remote town, I was advised by locals that the safest place to spend the night was within the walls of the local police compound. I'm pleased to say that I have not spent a night in police custody anywhere else since!

With crime rates increasing the further south I travelled and roadside hold-ups now being a possibility, I felt it was time to go home - back to the relative safety of Kano state in the north. But in order to spend the next night in my own bed, instead of on the backseat of the car. I would have to drive over 500miles, with no chance of even a dual carriageway enroute to ease the driving.

Now that I had a clear objective, it appears that 'haste' gained the upper hand and became the controlling influence upon my actions. In effect 'Haste' took over the driving. I should have known that speed would take the back seat when 'haste' was driving.

Since leaving the police compound early in the morning, breakfast and lunch had only consisted of brief stops at roadside food stalls. I would just take onboard snacks and drinks and eat whilst driving. I was totally focussed upon arriving home. With 'haste' driving, routine vehicle checks were given low priority. Not surprising then, that low pressure in one of the rear tyres was not detected. Of course, it overheated and caused the tyre to explode and drop the car down on to a wheel rim in a matter of seconds. Lucky that it was the rear tyre, as trying to keep control of a vehicle when it happens to a front tyre is very difficult. I stopped the car immediately to save the rim, but the tyre was totally destroyed.

I always carried a tyre pressure gauge and a foot pump - I still do. So the spare wheel was fitted and the other tyre pressures checked and adjusted where required. It was only because 'Haste' was driving that the tyre pressures were not checked first thing in the morning as I normally would - nowadays I still check them every time I set off on a journey of more than a few miles. As a result, I think I've had less than half a dozen punctures in over 100,000miles of driving. However, now I faced the prospect of driving the remaining 300miles home with no spare wheel.

It's a tiring job driving when the roads are either dirt, potholed, littered with potentially hazardous objects or a combination of all three. It doesn't help either, when there is an unofficial policy of marking dangerous holes in the road by putting a black oil drum full of soil just in front of it. To this day, in whatever country I am driving at night, I never drive faster than I can stop within the distance of my vehicle's headlights.

So, with daylight now rapidly disappearing, I needed to stop somewhere for a decent meal as I knew there would be nowhere else before I arrived home and I had only eaten snacks all day. I was passing through a small town but 'Haste' kept to the main route through the town in the belief that too much time would be required to find a proper restaurant. I was looking for a small roadside eating place. Luckily, I found one at the last minute, on  the outskirts of the town. It was a ramshackle looking place, made from brushwood and corrugated iron, but it would have to do. There was obviously no electrical supply and a single kerosine lamp seemed to be the entire light source for the interior. I could barely make out where the tables were and I noticed that there were no other customers. Menus are of no use without light to read them, so I guess that is why there wasn't one. But being able to discuss options requires a knowledge of the local dialect. I settled for the fact that they knew I wanted to eat something and so was not surprised when a bowl of hot food was put infront of me. It was so dark in there though that I could not actually see what was in the bowl. It was a case of touchy-feely to find out what it was! To this day I don't know for sure what was in that bowl but my recollection is of a thin soup with what felt like a large animal organ floating in it. My guess is that it was a heart; I suppose there were other organ possibilities, but I preferred not to think about those. I was only provided with a spoon so just sampled the soup and paid the bill for the experience. 'Haste' would now have to drive home hungry.

It's a long journey at night, whatever the distance, when you are constantly on the lookout for black oil drums in the middle of the road. So it was not until after midnight that I finally turned off the main road and onto the dirt road that lead the final 25miles to my house. It wasn't a road that I drove on very often and very few people drove on it at night. It was a real effort to stay awake and inevitably 'Haste' misjudged the height of a dirt ridge across the road; the car took off and landed with a crash, then the vehicle stopped. The engine was still running though. So I found my torch and discovered that an engine mounting had worked loose and the engine had fallen on to the drive shaft , disconnecting it from the engine. There should be five large steel balls in the drive shaft and none of them were present. My arrival home now depended upon whether I could find all 5 of these by torchlight in the middle of the night on this dirt road.

It was my lucky night. I eventually found all five steel balls. So I jacked up the car engine to re-fit it on its mounting and started re-assembling the driveshaft with the newly recovered ball bearings.

It was 3.30am when I awoke underneath the car; I had fallen asleep, having only half finished the job. "Haste' had had enough for one day. Time for 'common sense' to take over. So, now in the relative safety of Kano State, I lay a plastic sheet on the ground at the side of the car and slept until dawn.

It was in the first light of dawn that I arose to be greeted by a local farmer walking along the road to attend his fields. Now customary greetings in the local Hausa language are very stereotyped. His first greeting to me was "Ina aiki" (meaning: 'how is your work') and my traditional, though very ironic, reply had to be: "aiki na godiya" (meaning: 'I am thankful for it'). His next greeting was "Ina gajiya" (meaning: 'how is your tiredness') to which I had to reply "Ba gajiya" (meaning: 'there is no tiredness'). There are some times in life when you just have to tell lies!

It was 10.30am before I finally got home for breakfast. Not at all thankful for the night's work and very tired. I made a resolve that 'Haste' would not travel with me again.

Author: Maurice Thurman

Copyright © 2013 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources

Holistic Living Annex (OCTOBER 2013)

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