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The Art of Slowing Down

Adam Sandler is a very funny man, but can be a bit rough around the edges for my liking. Alas, so is much of modern comedy. The movie ‘Click’ is Sandler to a tee. Happy Gilmore move over. Acerbic, sharp, funny and pushing the boundaries of humour (often in the wrong direction) this movie is something more than a comedy. ‘Click’ packs a message with a steel punch. Put family first is the message, and Sandler shows no mercy in its delivery.

The story centres around a guy who is given a remote control so that he can stop, rewind or fast forward at any time in his life all the things that happen to him. At first this seems like a great idea, but later in the movie he realises that his fast-forward-bias in his life has become a default setting on the remote control, whilst rewind has become next to impossible. I’m sure every man who loves his remote control would dream about the possibilities.

‘Click’ is a parody of modern life in the fast lane. Does anyone remember the song? The trouble is that the fast lane is not a good place to raise a family, nor is it a good place for the soul. Maybe we should heed more often Simon & Garfunkel’s words, “Slow down you move too fast” in our increasingly frenetic world.

Margaret J Wheatley gave a speech a few years ago at the Robert K Greenleaf Centre for Servant Leadership annual conference. Her words are poignant and articulate the problem well.

“This really is a movement in a direction of being able to create a future that we all want. I feel a strong imperative. I feel the peril of this moment, that if we don’t learn how to come together differently, in our organisation, in our communities, in our families. If we don’t learn how to come together differently, then we are doomed. No this is said a little more elegantly by Gary Snyder, the American poet. He wrote this in the sixties, that’s rather depressing to me because he had already given up by then and here we are at the millennium. But he called this poem, ‘For the Children’.

The rising hills. The slopes of statistics lie before us.
The steep climb of everything going up, up as we all
Go down. In the next century they say our valleys and
Pastures, we can meet there in peace, if we make it.
To climb these coming crests, one word to you, to you
And your children. Stay together, learn the flowers,
Go light. Stay together, learn the flowers, go light.

I believe that is our work. I want to talk about each of those things. One of the strange things going on at the end of this millennium in western culture is that we have become, I believe, victims of many different beliefs. I’m only going to talk about two of them today.

The first is the belief that we can ignore time. The belief that we can negotiate with time, that we have in fact forgotten about things like natural rhythms, about cycles, about change, as part of the natural process. And instead we believe that it’s a straight trajectory into the future, and we can go as fast as we please. Of course this moves us away from nature, from rhythm, from a sense of place, and we are really struggling with this. I believe that our current effort to try and ignore time and growth and stages and cycles. I believe it is truly driving us crazy.

Lawrence Van der Post the south African writer, photographer, philosopher, said that things had gotten so serious in the world that he really feared for us. Someone asked him, “Well, what would you recommend, Sir Lawrence? What would you recommend that we do?” He said, “I would declare a year of silence.”

Poet Pablo Neruda said the same thing: “Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language. Let’s stop for one second and not move our arm so much. It would be an exotic moment. Without rush, without engines, we would all be together in a sudden strangeness. If we were not so single minded, in keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing perhaps” (this is the part of this poem I love.) “Perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves, and with threatening ourselves with death.”

Meaty and challenging words. The art of slowing down is a difficult one. Least of all for me. Margaret J Wheatley we at Dads4Kids salute you.

Lovework

Silence is golden. Rest is important. ‘Time to stop and stare’ as the poet Robbie Burns said are critical factors to recharge the batteries. Fasting is a wonderful way to give your body a rest. Prayer is a wonderful way to recharge your spirit.

If you live your life in fast forward you will most likely destroy your family as Adam Sandler so eloquently points out in ‘Click’. If you remember nothing else don’t forget the melody to ‘Slow down you move too fast’. Life is to be enjoyed, not endured.

Yours for living in the moment.
Warwick Marsh

PS: We are now in a period of time referred to as Lent. This 40 Day period in the traditional church calendar goes from 18 February – 29 March 2015 finishing just before Easter. By convention it is a time for spiritual reflection, stillness and renewal. With a few of my colleagues from various parts of Australia we engaged in a process of promoting this 40 day period after the National Day of Prayer and Fasting as a time of healing, reflection and renewal. If you are interested in engaging in such a process I encourage you to register your interest at the 40 Days of Delight.

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