"Don't just do something! Sit there!!!"
The ability to wait is one of the most under-valued attributes in our modern, fast-paced world. We are expected to be problem-solvers, men and women of action, self-starters, go-getters, quick off the mark, always prepared to give 110%. Our workaholic culture leaves no room for quiet contemplation, no time to let the experiences of our lives integrate and coalesce into wisdom.
One area (among many) where this frenetic need to act may work to our long term detriment is in the field of environmental remediation. It is becoming ever more obvious that we are near the limits of the earth's ability to support us in the style to which we have become accustomed. Global warming in particular has seized the imagination of the problem-solvers. Their frantic need to Fix It Right Now! has resulted in some truly outlandish proposals that violate the Precautionary Principle and could easily cause more damage over the long run. Examples of this include: seeding the oceans with iron filings to increase the growth of carbon-sequestering algae; orbiting giant mirrors to reflect some of the sunlight back into space before it enters the atmosphere; releasing huge clouds of sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere to act as artificial volcanic dust and slow the warming of the surface beneath; and that ne plus ultra of short-sightedness, turning food into biofuel to run our cars..
Of course some of these proposals may have some merit, but it's impossible to tell because so little time is being set aside for calm reflection. It might turn out after due consideration that some entirely different approach would have better prospects over the long run, but we may never know. Voices advocating time for "sober second thoughts" are being drowned out by those who feel compelled to act, no matter what the consequences.
Waiting has great benefits in all areas of life, from business and government to our personal lives. Wisdom takes time. Deeply understanding the world takes time. Thinking through problems from a number of different points of view takes time. Time to reflect is one of the great gifts we can give ourselves, and if it means we (or others) have to wait, so be it.
When you run into those little delays in life, like red traffic lights or a lineup at the checkout counter, rather than seeing them as roadblocks on your journey to somewhere else think of them as opportunities for reflection. Use those moments to remind yourself that the present is the only time you have, and that waiting is important too.
When the time is right, act. Until then, wait.