You’re Movin’ Too Fast

I think perhaps the first step in becoming more serious about our prayer life is a need to slow down. We have become addicted to speed. I can hear the words from the Simon & Garfunkel song titled “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” echoing in my head: “Slow down, you’re movin’ too fast, ya gotta make the morning last, just kicking down the cobblestones and feeling groovy.”

We live life in fast forward and efficiency is our top priority. We feel compelled to squeeze the most out of every hour. The cult of speed has pushed us to the breaking point. The pace of life is spinning out of control, leaving us feeling more and more exhausted from the non-stop rush. We need to rethink our relationship with time and how we use our time. Long ago, in a much slower age, Gandhi, a man Merton greatly admired, said: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” I remember taking 20 to 30 minutes every night to read a bedtime story to my daughter. When I read a bedtime story to her three kids, they can barely sit still for 15 minutes. In fact, the marketplace has taped into our need for speed by creating One Minute Bedtime Stories. How insane is that? Family meals are a thing of the past. We eat separately, often in front of our own personal entertainment centers. Our fast food diets are killing us.

Within all of society there is a growing need to save time and maximize efficiency. We have become incapable of doing nothing. We’ve gone from the survival of the fittest to the survival of the fastest. Our love affair with capitalism is generating extraordinary wealth (for some) while gobbling up natural resources faster than Mother Nature can replenish them. We are working longer hours and in the process becoming less happy and more unhealthy. Stress related illnesses such as insomnia and migraines are on the rise. We have no time for sleep, no time for exercise. People are becoming fearful of taking a vacation; and if we do go on vacation, we take our work with us thanks to an array of portable electronic devices that keep us plugged in and up to speed. The lack of sleep, exercise, and relaxation gives rise to even more illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, indigestion, and depression. Inevitably, life in a hurry becomes an unlived, superficial life…that is over all too fast. Milan Kundera said there is wisdom in slowness: “When things happen too fast, nobody can be certain of anything, about anything at all, not even about himself.”

When it comes to doing things too fast, I am as guilty as anyone else. I enter a supermarket with this thought in mind: how fast can I get out of here. I become impatient with people moving too slowly with their carts and blocking my rush down the aisle. I reach a boiling point over long check-out lines. Then I get made when I get home and realize I did not get all that I need to get because my primary goal had become getting out of the store. A long line is an opportune time to pray, perhaps simply repeating a mantra such as the name of Jesus. When I remember to do that, I am always surprised how quickly I calm down and become present to the moment at hand, which might include an otherwise unseen person in need of a smile.


2 Responses to “You’re Movin’ Too Fast”

  1. 1 aliceny August 10, 2014 at 7:34 am

    You have covered just about everything here, Gerry. It is a sad — no, a tragic — indictment of how we live our lives today. Gives new meaning to the phrase, “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

    And what a price our children are paying for this. They have become trapped in the treadmill of the status quo. They have lost the desire and the ability to use their imagination – one of the most important qualities that a developing mind of a child needs. They judge their peers by how many electronic gadgets they have at their disposal. They are losing the basic ability to communicate, especially by the written word;
    ‘texting’ has become the new language of convenience. As you imply, family unity nourished by time spent together is a casualty — a pernicious omen of incalculable importance for emotional health.

    And….so much more has been lost and has made our society the poorer for it….because we are losing that wellspring — that source — that each human mind and soul needs to draw upon and be nourished by.

  2. 2 Jerry August 11, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I think your comment about impatience gets to the heart of one problem. It’s a “work in progress”, but when I start feeling impatient, I try to remember to take deep breath, relax just a bit and remember that the other people are in the same boat with me. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes others pick up on my relaxing and feel a bit less apologetic and harassed.

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