I won’t make light of my crime or try to extract any humour from my being caught. Speeding kills people, and I was guilty, m’lord. Never mind that I was only four miles per hour over the limit, or that it seems speed cameras have become a major source of income for local authorities these days. That’s not the point. I was speeding.
The last time it happened, I was forced to attend a speed awareness course. An ashamed-looking group shuffled into a lecture room for a three-hour event designed to show just how devastating speed can be.
I actually enjoyed the experience, and stayed behind afterwards to thank the instructor for a good evening. He looked at me as if I was quite mad. I graduated from the course (which was no great achievement, because you just have to be there), and vowed that I would slow down, a pledge that I quickly broke.
I live my life at speed. I eat quickly; I can’t think why. Savouring the flavours has never been my style. I wish I could say I was raised in a large, hungry family, where if you didn’t eat your chicken quickly it would be snatched off the plate, but it’s just not true. I race through my food because I race through everything.
I speed read, preferring to skim sentences rather than fully digest the words. I multitask, and fume in rush hour traffic jams, where congestion means the one thing you can’t do is rush. I get things done so that I can move on to the next thing. But there’s always something else to do, somewhere else to go, some other experience that demands that whatever I’m doing, it won’t be for long.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself: why the haste? Rushing is an unconscious habit, one that’s hard to break. I dash without thinking. I don’t have to be late, under pressure or behind schedule in order to be in a hurry. Slowing down takes conscious effort. In a world of fast food and high-speed Wi-Fi, it’s easy to just go with the flow; even if the flow is a torrent rather than a trickle.
I rush simply because I always have. It’s my default setting. My mother tells me I came into the world very prematurely. Perhaps I took minutes rather than hours to make my appearance, and having received a slap from the midwife, proceeded to ask when school would be starting.
There’s a subtle pressure to be busy, because haste offers proof that we are in demand. Plus, slowing down is just so hard. When I relax I feel guilty. Going on holiday takes serious mental and emotional preparation. Suddenly finding myself without activity, and the rush created by rushing, I can spiral into vague depression, enduring rather than enjoying those lazy days of sunshine.
But as the speed awareness course demonstrated, speed can be truly devastating, and not just on the roads. I’ve made super-swift decisions that have proved to be disastrous, messes that could have been prevented by a pause. I’ve wasted too many beautiful moments, because I’ve not been fully present in them, dashing onto the next thing. Life lived like that becomes something to get through, rather than an experience to savour.
If I want to become more like Jesus, a better rhythm won’t be a luxury, but a necessity. He knew how to say no; at times he evaded the madding crowds (Luke 5:16) and commanded his friends to come apart for a while, presumably so that they wouldn’t fall apart.
So, wish me well as I make my attempt at slowing.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to go. Must get on.
Or maybe not.