taking it slow

“Slowness is Beauty.” — Laurence Binyon (later Ezra Pound in The Cantos)

I was blessed to spend last weekend in the Baltimore area at my grandparents’ place, a place that used to be much more separated from the hustle and bustle of city/suburban life but a place, nonetheless, that stilll feels “apart.” What is so beautiful about it? What brings one joy when they go there? There are many things, but what my recent three day stay caused me to comtemplate most is the folly that is time.

I haven’t worn a watch for about a year now, but most of my connecting with other people requires me to keep track of time, which I do via wall clocks or my cell phone, but I still try to stay away from it as much as I can. Why? Because time is restricting. If I want to read, why do I have to put a limit and say “I’ll read until 9:30?” Why can’t I just say, “I’ll read until I’m tired,” or, “I’ll read until I’m hungry?”

Look around our culture and you’ll see how time restricts us all. Most sports have a time limit, some even having shorter clocks within the larger timing scheme (perhaps another reason I enjoy baseball). “2 Hour Parking” signs abound. How about those “timed” tests you took on addition and other math skills in grammar school? That clock on the wall @ work you have to punch in and out on if you want a check? Your limited daily cell phone minutes?

Time restriction is a bit different than a deadline, though. After I turned in an essay in college, I felt free, but that was more about something being done and being satisfied with having put in the time and energy I had wanted (unless I had procrastinated a bit too much). If you think about taking the ACT or SAT or any other standardized test in your life, though, you’ll recognize how uneasy the restriction of time makes you feel. How would you have felt if you could have had unlimited time to do those tests?

Time can be restrictive, but when I was in Maryland, I felt no restrictions of time. There was no set schedule I had to follow — even something like lunch happened when it worked best. When I wanted to pick some berries, I took a few boxes down and picked them, taking my time as I saw fit. When we ate crabs, it was a slow process, but there was joy and grace in that time of work. And even the ability to sit without worry about being late to something or having responsibility for anything was a blessing.

We always joke about how all our “time saving devices” have made us all more busy, and while it’s obviously we’re busier today than people were 50 years ago, I think it’s more about how we choose to dictate our lives than about technological advances. Will we let time restrict us, or will we delight in the opportunities time can bring us?

Let us delight.

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