Sunday, May 15, 2016

Speed zone ahead

Sometimes I’m fast and sometimes I’m slow. Sometimes I want to get where I’m going and teleporting would be preferable. When I’m in the corridors of an office building on my way to somewhere and a person in front of me is ambling along, I feel something like corridor rage. I try to pass, but she’s just poking down the center of the hallway. This just pops my cork (even if I’m not on the way to a restroom). Why take so much time getting from here to there? I also get incredibly aggravated when I’m on a food line and the person in front of me waits till they’re at the front of the line to decide what kind of pizza they might want. #!x*/%
Other times, I just want to amble along myself, and the world is too speedy for me. I really liked cross-country skiing when it was ski touring and the trails wound in and out of trees. Then someone invented skate skiing and everything became a workout session, with skiers zipping by on newly-widened trails so there was room for their flying skis. Yes, I’m a runner, but when I hike, I like to walk slowly enough for conversation, for looking, for inspecting.

I like public transit because you can only get there as fast as the schedule allows. It enforces a slower pace to one’s life. My bicycle does the same thing: it’s a one-speed with coaster brakes. I didn’t like fussing with gears and I like my bike riding slow (for conversation, for looking, for inspecting). That bike has taken me through triathlons, but the goal was always finishing, not finishing fast.

On the other hand, I have to squash down my impatience when other people’s decision-making seems unenduringly slow, when something can be done smoothly and efficiently but the person seems intent on dawdling and plodding. (We used to come back from a particular post office complaining about “no sense of urgency.”) Maybe the other person is just not alert to what’s going on, but it expresses itself as slowness. Meanwhile, my speedy electrons are piling up in collisions inside me. For years, Sophie thought we played a game at K-Mart: leaving the cart because the checkout line was so slow, I’d get fed up and leave.

Yes, this is a checkered, self-centered reaction to speed: when I want fast, you’d better be fast; when I want slow, don’t rush me. But then I found a wonderful collection of thoughts by Doris Grumbach as she approached her 100th year. She’d seen an article in the Wall Street Journal about Audubon Day at the Louisiana State University’s Memorial Library. A librarian stood in front of a beautiful, open page of Audubon’s Birds of America for several minutes: ‘Very slowly she turned to the next page. A small audience of awed spectators watched. What was most impressive about the description of the activity was the newspaper’s headline: “The Joys of Slow Looking.”’

“The Joys of Slow Looking”

I like it. You can’t look slowly if you’re moving fast or in a rush. You can’t look slowly if you have to be somewhere else. You can’t even look slowly if you’re even thinking about the somewheres else you have to be or do. Slow looking requires looking, not spacing out and staring.

Lots of books and magazines tell me to Be Present in the moment, but when I remind myself, I get all knotted up with runaway thoughts and frantically try to rein them in. But telling myself to “look slowly”? That seems more accessible. It helps me stop because I have to look. To look, not to glance or peek. To look outside my head, not in.

I’m going to try this. The Joys of Slow Looking await.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting idea. So how do i stop feeling guilty about choosing the slow lane?


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