One of the most wearisome parts of being human is the amount of time that it can take to get anywhere, especially the places you want to go. It can be oh-so-difficult to have a God-given vision of what should be, of what could be, of what exists so clearly in one’s imagination and faith – and yet have it just out of reach for what seems to be an interminable amount of time. The desire to see the vision materialize into existence may prompt an individual to keep working toward the goal, but for some reason that same desire almost never makes the goal arrive any sooner than it is supposed to.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn that lesson over and over again, and find it at work even as an artist. Maybe especially as an artist. It’s just that I can see the goal so clearly. It’s inspiring! It’s pristine! It’s glorious! I can point it out to the people who are going there with me and describe it to those who are encouraging me along the way. But aside from diligently plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other, I can’t seem to make the trip go any faster.
Apparently, that isn’t up to me, no matter how much I pick up the pace.
That is the irony of our respective journeys – we have stewardship over the process of the journey to the destination, but it seems that we have little, if any, control over how long that journey is going to take. On second thought, scratch that. I should say that, by all appearances, we have plenty of ability to hamper things on our own – by our distractions, our indecisions, our over-analysis, and our hesitations, all of which we seem to have in abundance – but we don’t seem to be able to arrive at our destinations before their time.
To everything, according to one songwriter, there is a season, and just to add to the angst, a completely different songwriter assures us that the waiting is the hardest part. Perhaps this comes from a fear of being late, even though the promise is that all things will be made beautiful in their own time. And so we find ourselves cursing the slowness by which we head towards our goals.
A few years ago, I found myself in a place in life in which I couldn’t drive my car for several months. In the vast sprawl that is Los Angeles, getting very far was nothing short of frustrating. So a generous friend bought me a good bicycle. It was a terrific blessing, and one for which I was truly grateful (you who did it, you know who you are) – and for more than one reason. Yes, it got me where I needed to go, and, sure, it got me in pretty good shape, but that bike helped me to do something even more substantial and worthwhile. It got me to slow down.
Suddenly (if I can use that word in the context of ‘slowing down’), I was traveling not at the breakneck speed of the typical Southern California automobile driver, but at the pace of the urban bicyclist. No longer able to use the freeway system, I was forced to find alternate routes, side streets, and hidden neighborhoods that I never would have sought out if I were in a car. And the strange thing I came to realize is that, in spite of my slower pace, I was enjoying myself. I could catch the smell of spices as I passed through various ethnic neighborhoods. I received a smile and a wave from the mother and her little girl playing in their tiny yard. I could hear neighbors chatting with each other over fences. I could see the small mom-and-pop shops and the wares they displayed in their windows. I could read clever graffiti on the sides of buildings (well… some of it was clever).
And all these were things that I never would have had the opportunity to experience if I had been going as fast as I wanted to. All of a sudden, the world was bigger because I was going slow enough to see the small details. And so, oddly enough, I was thankful for this pace, which I would have otherwise considered sluggish, because it left me with a sensation that I was increasingly… alive.
I felt sorry for all those motorists who were unaware of this breathing world that existed at the slower tempos. I felt bad for those drivers who had their feet clamped down on their accelerators and who couldn’t be engaged in all the life that was going on around them. I pitied the quick and the dead.
These days, I’m back in the driver’s seat of my 1995 Toyota Camry, hoping that perhaps someday a generous friend will buy me a better, faster car (you who are supposed to do it, you know who you are). My right foot is clamped down on the accelerator in my effort to keep up with the speed demons of the freeway. In the midst of the frenzy, however, I’m haunted by spices and chatter and clever graffiti and a thought that slowly takes shape in my mind like all those goals and destinations I can envision so clearly, and that thought is this:
Faster is not always better.
All my best,
Actor | Writer
Director of The Greenhouse
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