I was walking up to the corner, and there was a car stopped in the street next to me, waiting to make a right turn. I was still probably 20 yards away from reaching the corner when the light changed, and I watched as the driver looked around and made sure traffic was clear before making the turn.
Meanwhile, another car was speeding up from behind, honking its horn like crazy. The car in front, seeing the coast was clear, proceeded with its turn, just before the second car whipped past me and fishtailed around the corner, then had to brake abruptly to avoid slamming into the first car or the ones in the left-turn lane going the other way.
A bumper sticker on the back of the second car read, “TIME FLIES.”
I thought, no kidding, especially when you’re going so fast and in such a hurry.
What did all that horn honking and racing around the corner accomplish, except to take what was nice and easy and make it tense.
In retrospect, having seen the driver and noting he was young, it reminded me of the antsy gang members in “West Side Story,” Action and A-rab, a rocket in their pocket, so hot they were about to boil over, and so tense they just wanted to bust, or those kids who drive around knocking over mailboxes. Stupid kids creating unnecessary disturbances.
But in the moment it happened, I didn’t associate the incident with the recklessness or the impatience of youth. I was thinking more about how the world is already going so fast, moving and changing at breakneck speed, and how people like this only serve to speed it up further, and how, if we don’t find ways to slow things down, it can get pretty darn stressful.
For example, going through airport security. You have to take off your shoes and belt — if it has a metal buckle like mine — and take your computer out, and get everything out of your pockets, and wait, where’s my ticket and my ID as I pat at all my pockets, and come on, take off your jacket. Come on, let’s go! People are waiting!
That’s the way it used to feel to me, but eventually I was able to consciously take my time through the process, and now the whole thing is a lot less hectic. But it took practice.
Speaking of practice, as in spiritual practice, one of the communal intentions of the group I work, collaborate and hang out with is to slow the world down. And how do we do that? I guess by being here now, and by not letting our minds dwell too long in some other place, such as the future or the past.
That happened to me the other day. I was driving to my sister’s house and I realized I was a mile past her street, and I couldn’t believe it. To this minute, I’m still not sure if I just spaced out for three and a half miles or if I unknowingly took some kind of cosmic shortcut and was mysteriously delivered.
Such occasional oddities notwithstanding, you don’t want to get to the end of the road and think, how did I get here and how come I didn’t notice everything in-between, and then realize it’s because you weren’t there when “there” was here.
Another technique we use to slow the world down is to not to hitch our wagons to things that are changing rapidly right before our eyes, like technology and systems. We stay connected to things that move slower — stones and streams, trees and mountains and the sky.
The heck with all those warnings that if you don’t keep up, you’re going to get left behind. The only ones left behind are the ones not here.