|Unhurry (Ringwood NJ, Dec. 31, 2022)|
What can anyone give you greater than now? - William Stafford
Recently, I read John Mark Comer's The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. It was an unusual choice given how religious the text is. That said, it was also what I most needed. There last 6 years have fundamentally changed me insomuch as I understand loss and living in ways I could not have understood before. I understand both as the same gift. Yes, I still feel sad moments inside ordinary days. These are often piercing. They also are bathed in deep wells of gratitude. To know love and loss is to understand that alongside hardships is peace. Alongside ambiguity is grace. Alongside loss is love.
Feeling is a challenge given the frantic, hurried, speed at which I have been practicing living--especially the last 4 years. I am braver now--brave enough to recognize in my bones that I want and must slow down. Doing so requires me to learn the fine art and practice of being unhurried, being imperfect, being present.
Early in the text, Comer asks:
What if the secret to a happy life...isn’t “out there” but much closer to home? What if all you had to do was slow down long enough for the merry-go-round blur of life to come into focus? (p.10)
I think this is right. Every thing "out there" is composed within. It's a practice of naming, unmaming, renaming, or leaving the feeling unnamed, unrealized. Comer quoting Dallas Willard, explained that a friend asked him, "What do I need to do to become the me I want to be?”
“There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” (p. 19).
My one little word for 2023 is unhurry. Yesterday it was foggy and although there were tasks to do, I left early in the morning with my camera, a travel cup of black coffee, and photographed for hours. I got misted on, rained on, my sneakers sunk into mud, and I spent a lot of time just staring and making images with my camera. It's been months since I have done this without a clock ticking in my brain.
It was a slow day. It was the first slow day I can recall in a long while.
It reminded me so much of how I lived for a long time: leaving for a day with nothing more than a camera in hand. When I am making or sighting a possible image, I breath in and out in syncopation with whatever I have connected to and am co-creating. I feel similarly in classrooms teaching. A colleague remarked that when I listen to 6-years-olds, I listen with my whole self. True.
It's this sense of now that hurrying eclipses and listening, watching, being embraces. At these moments I feel content, satisfied, happy, and connected to an energy beyond the moment and myself.
For the last year, I've been following the images made by the James Webb Space Telescope. Perhaps you have seen some too. These other worldly images tell me that what I do not know is great, like the expanding universe we call home. This is a brief video of what the telescope has captured. It is the definition of wonder and holy and goodness and mystery and see if it doesn't pull you into the moment.
These images remind me of my very, very infinitesimal place within the universe that is so grand and stunning--so wondrous.
Seeing these images stops me.
That's what wonder does. It momentarily halts us, opening up a space for what we did not know could come next. I think that space is the nebula of possibility. That is what slowing down, living unhurried opens up.
Towards the end of the text, Comer offers advice on slowing down. He says that the first rule is to place ourselves in positions of waiting. Instead of veering from the checkout lane with five people with a very full carts, deliberately get in that line and learn to wait. I practiced this at Target. I had only been to a Target years ago in Virginia. But five nights before Christmas, I was at a Target in NJ picking up glass bottles. Every line was an opportunity to wait. And wait I did and it was oddly comforting. I'm at the resigning stage, and I imagine a day when this too will feel like grace.
Comer offers 20 ideas for slowing down. The first three I am practicing. Mind you I travel on five highways to get to work each morning. His first advice is: Drive the speed limit. Followed by: Get in the slow lane. Then Come to a full stop at stop signs.
It occurs to me that the five highways to work are a choice. There are other ways to get there. And isn't that a grand metaphor? So if you get to northern NJ, slow down. I'll be the driver in the small, white Volvo stopping completely at stop signs, and driving the speed limit in the slow lane.
Happy New Year.