Spring is a season when the pace quickens. To snap out of the winter doldrums, we feel the need to rush. Projects are suddenly due. Deadlines appear to be on top of us every day. Travel demands increase. In the rushing rhythm of the days, I find it necessary to maintain my perspective if I’m going to keep my equilibrium. Thankfully, I came across an essay which helped me put the pressure to rush in perspective.
Robyn Ryle is a sociologist and writer who I first met when she spoke at our National Main Street conference. Robyn lives in Madison, Indiana — one of the country’s great Main Street communities — where she teaches sociology, writes books on changing notions of gender, and blogs about place (among other topics) on the web site You Think Too Much. There is wisdom in her tales of life away from the coasts. As I read her essay on driving the speed limit, I immediately felt myself slow down.
“Today I picked up my book of daily yoga and read, ‘Today, drive the speed limit.’ That was all.
It wasn’t very profound compared to other days when I’ve contemplated gratefulness or stated out loud my intention for the day or cultivated my inner child. Just, ‘Drive the speed limit.’ I guess if you’re coming up with a different yoga meditation for every day of the year, you might very well run dry by October, I thought.
I am not what you would call a speed demon. I certainly drive faster than my husband. I’ll admit that sometimes when I’m riding with him I stare at the speedometer pointedly, and he is kind enough to ignore me. I am one of those people who is annoyed if the person in front of me on the road is driving the actual speed limit. ‘Who do they think they are?’ I wonder. ‘Don’t they know that you’re supposed to go at least 5-10 miles over the speed limit? It’s, like, a rule.’
But my book of daily yoga has not led me astray yet, so I got in the car and drove the speed limit. Thirty miles an hour on 2nd Street downtown, which was not so hard. Thirty miles an hour on Main Street was harder, but I did it. I slowed down. And I thought.
When someone drives slow in front of me, I get angry. I feel they have violated some inherent right of mine to go fast. To get to the next place. To move on. To get it over with and on to the next thing. Driving the speed limit it occurred to me that this is crazy.
First, I have no god-given right to go fast and, second, why do I want to? What’s the rush?”
What’s the rush, indeed? A quote incorrectly attributed to John Lennon makes the point that “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Taking the time to move at the speed of life — and think — is counter-intuitive to how we should address our over-crowded schedules and pressing deadlines. But it works. Rushing to finish up projects to get to the next thing doesn’t make them better and often makes them worse.
It was Edward Abbey who memorably said, “Life is already too short to waste on speed.”
Take the time to travel at the speed limit. Take the time to travel at the speed of life. And have a good week.
More to come…