The Wisdom of Slowing Down
Many of us, good and serious people that we are, believe we must constantly be engaged “making a difference in the world.” We push ourselves relentlessly to do more, more effectively. After all the stakes are so high, and so many suffer, and the outlook for our world is so bleak. I know there is a near constant narrative line in my mind, subtle but persistent, which judges my efforts as insignificant and inadequate. I’ve discovered the most skillful, immediate response to such an interior voice is certainly to wrap it in kindness and compassion. But recently I’ve had the deep pleasure of reading a new book, World Enough and Time, by Christian McEwen (Bauhan Publishing, Peterborough, NH, 2011) which suggests another approach: Slow down. Resist the near manic pressures of this contemporary world, to allow yourself time to notice, feel, think, and contemplate. This is a beautifully written book, with insights and images lovingly offered from a very deep well of sensibility and creativity. It is also a profoundly radical book, that urges the reader to step back and claim the richness and fullness of a deeply lived human life.
This seems to me to be a critical tool for helping us to wake up. It may also provide us with the grounding and stability essential to do the strenuous work of dissolving our fear and opening our hearts to ourselves and to the world. It may be what we in our hurried, competitive, and unsatisfying lives most need to recognize our interdependence. McEwen calls us to a contemplative life in the very heart of our daily lives and our everyday world. Imagine how it would be, to be convinced that there is “World Enough and Time.”
One thought on “The Wisdom of Slowing Down”
Thank you for the Christian McEwen recommendation. Yesterday morning I turned to a Mary Oliver poem that encapsulates the same themes.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”