This is not the first time I have written on this topic. Apparently it is my soapbox, and my message to the world; my epitaph will read “She Was Slow, But Man Was She Deep!” I will not give up, I will not cave in to a world of sound bites and trends and catchy, half-assed information speeding through the Twittosphere in place of actual reflection and the exercise of the intellect. Everything does not have to be fast, EZ, immediately fascinating, trendy, or shiny in order to be valid. There is, to my knowledge, no prize at the end of life for having finished fastest, or having the most apps. God does not say “well done, trendy and fleet-footed servant!” Nirvana is not achieved by establishing that one has crammed the greatest possible number of activities into one’s waking hours.
For the record: I am no slow motion Luddite. I Tweet, Tumbl, Pinterest, Etsy, Skype, and Hulu with the best of them. I can tell you without blinking about the hottest things at South by Southwest, the Indie film that was just written up in “Nylon,” and which piercing tats and social causes are cutting edge among the under-thirty crowd. It’s fun for me to explore, and grow as the world changes.
However, dear reader, there are things that should be slow. Thinking, real, actual, uncomfortably difficult thinking should be given as long as it takes. Eating, and probably cooking should be conscious activities that nourish the soul rather than merely providing fuel. Reading should take some time, and expressing oneself on topics dear to one’s heart should be measured by quality and sincerity rather than glib facility. Spiritual practice should be a thing outside of regular schedules, taking as long as it takes to grow and connect with a deity or the cosmos. All interactions between living beings should last long enough that the participants may conduct themselves thoughtfully, compassionately and with integrity. I should not play “Words With Friends” while I am talking to my mother on the phone, because it is cruddy, disrespectful, and woefully unkind.
But I live in this world in which there is currently a pizza ad in which a child describes her father’s unhappiness with having to wait twenty minutes to get a restaurant table – the solution is that he would rather buy a “Hot n’ Ready” pizza made of cardboard to feed his family. He would, no doubt, be using the lost twenty minutes to great purpose and could not possibly use it to have a conversation with his family as they waited on a vinyl bench at a real restaurant. I live in a world where people of my acquaintance are disturbed because church services do not feature a veritable circus of music, light and words to prevent them from so much as a moment of silence, and in which ancient disciplines like yoga and meditation are trendy pop psych/fitness trends stuffed into frantic days. I live in a world in which people brag that their children are “just so busy” with sports, music, dance, and various other activities that they barely have time to draw breath, and in which older friends and relatives are increasingly excommunicated because they are not constantly watching for texts, e-mails, and Facebook messages, or checking trending topics on Twitter.
Frankly, days like today, it makes me want to live in a cave with a stack of books, near an apple tree and a running stream.
When I do not rush, when I refuse to be part of the cottage industries related to EZ food, communication and entertainment, I find wonderful things. I hear old people telling stories that take a long time in the telling, but that make me feel that the membrane between souls is breached as I watch the gestures of wrinkled hands, and wait patiently for long-stored memories to be brought back to life. I feel the gelatinous membrane that holds the seeds in a cucumber as I cook, halving each vegetable and running my finger along the inside to remove the seeds. I watch a spider working on her web, and two butterflies playing in mid-air, commending the former on miraculous precision and mentally warning the latter to play farther from the sticky, beautiful death trap. I read a book that is difficult for me to understand, putting it down periodically to think about it, figure out the missing connections, and evaluate whether I disagree, or simply lack the maturity to know that I agree with the author. I feel cheated when, in bed at night, I cannot remember parts of the day because they went by in a blur. It happens, I do not have the luxury of living a life of monastic simplicity, but I am never proud that I allowed exigency to trump awareness and presence.
There are things that need to be fast: base runners, speed skaters, phlebotomists, magicians, auctioneers, race cars, and gunfighters come to mind.
Most other things don’t need to be fast. They don’t need to be cutting edge. If you are too busy to read a book, if you are tapping your feet and fidgeting because a speech takes too long, if you find yourself apoplectic in traffic because someone takes too long to turn, if you judge those who are not quite as technologically adept as you are…I feel sorry for you. There is no prize for speeding through life or for barricading yourself from humanity with a mountain of apps and followers. The prize is right here, right now, wherever you are. Take a breath, look around, and see what you’ve won.