Friday, January 22, 2016

slow down

I got my first Pennsylvania speeding ticket a couple of weeks ago.

It happened in a spot that, apparently, is well known for its speed traps… but there was no excuse:  I was driving above the posted limit and I deserved every penny of the fine.  All 12,800 of those pennies. (As it turns out, the police officer was kind and gave me a ticket for “traveling in the left lane” which costs less than the fine for  driving 72 mph in a 55 mph zone.)

Since then, I’ve been hyper-aware of posted speed limits and extra diligent about matching the needle on my speedometer to the number on the road sign.  It’s harder than it looks.  There’s a section of road in my neighborhood that posts a 25 mph limit; as a result, I am becoming intimately acquainted with the kitchen curtains, lawn furniture and garden beds of every house in the ‘hood.  There’s a lot to look at  and take in when you drive at a snail’s pace.

 I realize that I have been conditioned (by our culture, by the measure of our success?) to do everything in a manner that is quick and tidy and efficient… and this conditioning begs the question:  Why drive 55 mph on an  empty, straight open road … when you can drive 72 mph and get there sooner?

Our culture does not support meandering, taking our time, chewing our food or dwelling on things.  And every year, about this time, I take a few conscious steps to change that – at least in my personal life.  I slow down.

Years ago, a parishioner in my church fell and broke her leg. She was put into a cast from the top of her thigh to the tip of her toes and spent the months of April and May sitting in a chaise-lounge in front of a picture window looking out on her yard and the nearby woods.  “I watch the grass grow. Literally, ” she told me one day when I paid a pastoral call.

I don’t want to break my leg, but I do want to slow down.  And so, just as Lent get ready to  descend upon us, urging some solid weeks of reflection and review, I will look to shift my daily pattern slightly:  I’ll trade in Morning Prayer for a “contemplative sit” each morning before I go to the gym.  I’ll say goodbye to the craziness of Face Book (except for Friday postings of this blog). I’ll slow down in the kitchen and use Edward Espe Brown’s meditations for preparing to cook (If you don’t know Edward and the cook books from his Buddhist monastery that blend spirituality with the work of the kitchen, check it out:

… in general… I’ll just try to breathe a little more, enjoy some intentional pauses in my day instead of rushing from one thing to another, and dial the frentic-meter waaay back.

About 10 years ago I bought a book called In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed (Carl Honore,  Harper Books, 2004).  A friend was with me when I bought it.  Weeks later, my friend asked me how I’d enjoyed the book.  I told her… that I hadn’t read it yet… I’d been too busy.  Sic.

Maybe this year, I’ll get to it.

How ‘bout you?  Is it time for you to take a breather and slow down?

PS Next week I’ll be away at  a “Living Our Vows" conference, a.k.a.“Baby Bishop’s School” and will not be posting a blog entry.  Tune in on the following Friday.  Thanks. Grace and Peace.

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