We live in a fast-paced, high stim world. See, I didn’t even take the time to spell out “stimulation” because everyone knows what “stim” means, right? It’s faster to keyboard and faster to say. The need for speed is at an all time high. We have quicker access to more information and more stimulation than ever before. High speed Internet social networks make the need for real, face-to-face relationships nearly obsolete. Soundbites are all we need, right up there with chicken nuggets. Great nutrition for body and soul, don’t you think? We can fill our eyes, ears, and brains to the brim and beyond, 24/7.
IPods, IPhones, IPads, desktops, laptops, CDs, DVDs, HDTVs, Facebook, fast food, drive throughs, microwaves–they’re all part of daily life in 2011. We don’t have to stop and be alone with our own thoughts anymore–ever–unless something makes us. I often hear a voice inside my head screaming above the daily din pleading, “Stop! Slow down!” Is this because I’m over 50 and my brain doesn’t process like it used to? OMG! Say it isn’t so! (You DO know what OMG means, right? “Oh my goodness!”)
Something happened Friday morning that helped me with my malaise regarding our modern pace and overstimulation. I met a big beast on the expressway. Heading north on I-43 to drop Nick off at school, I encountered not Big Foot, but Lead Foot. There it was in the driver’s seat of my Yukon where I had sat just a moment previously! How it got there I don’t know! It had wild, curly hair, a furrowed brow, and worst of all, it reeked of Starbucks Italian Roast.
OK. I admit the beast was me. I was late, as usual–just one of my flaws from which I never seem to recover despite my best intentions. Just north of the entrance ramp, construction had the two lanes down to one due to a bridge replacement. Am I the ONLY one who happens to get stuck behind a geriatric driver going 25 MPH under the speed limit when in a hurry with no way to pass? I nearly blew a gasket and it wasn’t my car’s. I practically had to slam on the brakes to avoid rear-ending the poor grandma, sending her to heaven prematurely. I took in some deep, calming breaths and reminded myself that I would be her age someday, God willing, and would probably appreciate some patience with my old-age pace. Actually, come to think of it, I need patience presently with my middle-age pace. Joy!
In my moment of weakness–getting mad at Granny and feeling picked on by Murphy due to the stupid law he established–I thought it might be an opportunity to look around and absorb the sights since I was going a whopping 40PMH and could not pass for three whole miles. So, I looked at the budding green landscapes. Sigh. Spring in Wisconsin. How grand! I chatted peacefully with my son about his latest obsession, Justin Bieber. I caught a long, leisurely look at horses in a pasture. Another sigh. And then. . . I saw. . .THE SIGN.
It was one of those big construction signs, orange and ominous. You just know when you see one of them that somebody’s going to mess with your tight timetable. This bright orange sign caught my attention–probably because I was going soooooooo slow. Just two black words on orange:
I started thinking about reduced speed limits, grannies, bridges and work zones. Then, sort of like coming up with a killer dessert accidentally, which happens to me now and then, all the ingredients blended together flawlessly and I had an epiphany.
Suddenly, I realized I was in the midst of a parallel process! I had instantly transported myself with my Yukon into two work zones simultaneously, sort of like some sci-fi dual-reality flick. In the outer “work zone”–the one all my fellow travelers were in at that moment on the highway–a new bridge was being built to replace the one ready to collapse.
In the inner “work zone,” where soul finds truth when truth is sought, I realized how certain life events force us to slow down and, in the process, help us rebuild the collapsed bridges back to our souls from which we have become disconnected on life’s highways of haste. The soul needs time and stillness to remain sane. Less is more; more is less in the world of the soul. Inner work zones are soul zones where the pace is slowed, the sounds are silenced, and our spiritual senses are reconstructed so we can bridge the mundane to the divine.
With this perspective, my spot behind Granny became a place of grace where I became thankful instead of resentful for the chance to slow down, pray, observe, reflect, and enjoy a few nuggets of spiritual nourishment on my way to middle-school. Once out of the highway work zone, I sped up, pulled alongside Granny, slowed down, and smiled at her. It was my way of saying, “Thanks for being slow! I needed the brake!” (Spelling intended.)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”