We all live in a fast-paced society, regardless of where we live. Things to do, places to be, people to see. Never with enough hours in the day, it seems. It creeps up slowly on us all, and only a determined effort will expose its grip on.
We live in an age of ‘fast’, as opposed to those Ancients, the Druids, early Christians, Pagans and others whose life resonated to a much slower, deeper time.
Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.
‘Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going to fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why’. Eddie Cantor
With that thought in mind, and acknowledging that I had been caught, lately, in the trap of ‘fastness’, I took myself off for a break, and recently spent several wonderful days in the New Forest in the southernmost part of England, and loved it.
It was cold, wet, and muddy, and some might have described it as miserable. I would call it an opportunity to be alone with the Alone. And, what a blessing it was.
I’ve mentioned some of the thoughts and experiences of that New Forest encounter, already, and the blessing it was to me, but it seems to me that the Universe, the Source of All doesn’t delineate things quite as neatly as we want, and because of that there is always something to learn.
Here are some recent events, in no particular order, with learning experiences.
One: There is a guy who is homeless, local to where I live in London, and whenever I can I strike up a conversation with him, have shared information about helpful agencies with him, and sometimes given money. It can almost be ‘robotic’. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes when we see mass appeals on tv for this concern and that need, it’s possible to get ‘overloaded’ and blasé about those in great need and their needs. Without realising it, in our busyness we miss out.
And then it happened. I was in a café belonging to one of the large companies, inserted my debit card at the counter/check-out till and it wouldn’t work. I tried three times, and fortunately there wasn’t a queue behind me so no one was upset – except me. But, it wasn’t working – the card had a ‘tear’ in it.
Just then a young guy who seemed about eight foot tall and looking down on me, it seemed (and that was a bit of hyperbole on my part), and who was in front of me, having paid and was waiting for his coffee, offered to pay. And, before I could say anything, he wafted his wrist over the contactless reader (just like Obi Wan Kenobi did in that movie when he said, ‘These are not the ‘driods you are looking for’) and the transaction for my latte and croissant had been dealt with. Just like that.
‘There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.’ Aldous Huxley
In my mind, the ‘accuser’ spring to life: ‘He thinks your down on you luck. He feels sorry for you because he thinks your card has been declined because of insufficient funds. That’s what he thinks of you.’ And so, I wanted to say to him, I do have enough money in the bank you, know! But, the ‘quietness within’ also spoke to me and urged me to accept this goodwill gesture, knowing that I needed to pay for it, and that the pay-er would be blessed. The most I could say to him, overjoyed at his assistance, was ‘Thank you, bless you!’.
What goes around, comes around. The blessings we send out, do come back in the same form, similar forms, or altogether different forms; but they do come back. I do believe that young man will be blessed. Reciprocity.
From that café event I learned humility and the need sometimes to allow others to act on my behalf – is that the same for you?
I will look at the homeless man in the alley near Putney Bridge differently – as a truly humble man and an example to me.
Two: Having spent some time in the New Forest, it gave me sometime to spend a few hours with some new friends in Portsmouth and to celebrate Imbolc and St Brigids Day. And it was wonderful. Many people there had parts to do and say in a wonderful ceremony, and they did so with passion. I was asked to call one of the Quarters. I declined. I didn’t have my hearing aids with me, but I was impressed at the welcoming, friendliness and inclusiveness of the grove. Isn’t that what it should be like? I guess so, but isn’t it wonderful when it really happens.
‘Everyone has a place. If we do not realize this we are not living in an inclusive world. Divisions are created by fear, anger and ignorance.’ Independent Zen
From this group I learned humility, and the need to accept graciously extended invitations. They were an example to me. Receiving.
Perhaps I could have managed with the hearing aids?
Three: Very recently I attended a Leaders’ course. It was in Solihull, near Birmingham and seemed to cover a theme that I’d like to discover more about. I will be polite. There was room for improvement in the logistics of the day, but those leading it were passionate and I liked that, even though they made no allowance for anyone’s slightly different theologies.
‘If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.’ Wanda Sykes
We had had the introductions from the front, the short course explained and ‘dipped’ in to the first theme. This was followed by a ten minute break and it was then that I hoped to find out about the twenty leaders, who, like me, were participants and might have travelled from the four corners of the country.
As soon as the break time had been declared, mobile phones came out, ipad computers were ‘fired up’, and all manner of busyness took place.
I looked around and wondered how these people’s organisations could do without them, if they had to check in like this at the first opportunity? Ofcourse, in a fast-paced and busy society the hallmark of having made it is to ‘look busy’!
It’s easy to point the finger and say that this display of busy-ness is ego (although, perhaps their organisations could not do without them), but it could be. But, another, deeper thought came to my mind.
The over-riding thought was: ‘this was you (and could it be you?). It’s easy to slip back into it. Pray for those who are still in the clutches of busy-ness’. I almost fell into the trap of judging them in a self-righteous way.
The cult of busy-ness is insidious, but we are more than that.
‘He showed me that there was another world where strangers helped strangers for no other reason than that it is good to do so, and where callousness was unusual, not the norm.’ Hyeonseo Lee
Today, society’s watchword is ‘busy’. But, that is not who we are.
The Ancients knew the art of slow, of perceiving deeply and leading an uncluttered life. They had their challenges just as we have ours. We are not in their situation, and so in many senses we need to ‘work’ at rediscovering what they experienced.
I’m back in London now. The New Forest experiences were wonderful, but so were the events that followed it. Could it be that in any encounter with the Other, the ‘unpacking’ and assessment and application of it comes later, and do the blessings keep on coming as ‘distant echoes’?. I think they do. Residuality
Wherever we go, there are things to perceive, things to learn, things to share. We are surrounded by nature’s ‘quiet teachers’ – and such teachers are in wild places as well as in the city, in deep spiritual moments and in the ‘mundane’. We are surrounded by such teachers and the One who is engaged in an everlasting conversation with us, should we only ‘stop and stare’, and listen, and put the cult of busy-ness in its place.