Or… Slowing Down With Orthodoxy
Today I wrote two condolence notes – a wake-up call of sorts. My time is limited, and I am not making best use of my time. I need to strike a better balance as I teeter on the tightrope. Balance calls for finding that sweet spot between reflection and productivity.
Why are we all so busy? Obviously during our working years, as we ricochet between work, community service, soccer practice, music lessons, home maintenance and feeding livestock, life is hectic. But what about those of us who have retired? Why do we feel trapped in a pinball machine?
In our quest for instant friends, instant information, and instant confirmation (facilitated by our handheld devices) we have picked up speed, and the speed has become an end in itself. I don’t need instant gratification. Life is already passing too quickly. Why would I want to speed it up?
I remember when the Colorado Department of Transportation raised the speed limit to 65 MPH on State Highway 96 east of Westcliffe. I remember Jim Little’s editorial in the Wet Mountain Tribune. He suggested that just because it was legal to drive 65, driving that fast was not mandatory. Good point. Sometimes I drive 65 MPH. Sometimes I go faster. But sometimes Jim Little’s words dance on the fringe of my awareness, and I take my foot off the gas.
In my last blog, I wrote about the bonding calls of our Second Street owls. Their cooing is soothing. Their coos suck me into the natural world. The male is smaller with a lower pitched call; the female is larger with a higher pitched call. The regularity of their back and forth pillow-talk is Zen-like, and it takes me away from life in the fast lane.
Oliver Sacks, neuroscientist, humanist, and prolific author, died at 82 this past summer. The New York Times spoke of Sacks as the “poet laureate of contemporary medicine.” His last essay, “Sabbath” was printed in the New York Times just weeks before his death. http://.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/opinion/sunday/oliver-sacks-sabbath.
In his last essay, Sacks reminisced about growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home. He remembered his mother cooking, donning Sabbath clothing, lighting the candles, and reciting prayers on Friday evening. As for the Sabbath day itself, Sacks remembered that according to custom, no work was allowed. No light or stove was turned on. Driving was forbidden. And no telephone was answered. As practicing physicians, his parents had to bend the rules, but their intentions were pure.
If Sach had been writing about life today, he would have had to add computers, television and smart-phones to the list of devices out of keeping with the Sabbath.
I love the otherworldliness and the pace of Orthodox strictures based the Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
And so… my husband and I are going to add a Sabbath to our week. We have yet to choose a day: the choice of day does not matter: our self-discipline is less about religion and more about centering. But… (no laughter please) we cannot begin this week. We will start on our return from a rail conference in England.
We have a head start in that we live in town and have no need to drive. Also, we have no television, so that temptation is off the table. I can easily forget the phone. Ignoring the computer will be more difficult, but if it weren’t difficult, what would be the point?
I will let my readers know how it goes. Meanwhile, I expect my readers to hold my feet to the fire.
Last evening I watched a 2008 award-winning documentary, MAN ON A WIRE. You can stream it on Netflix. The film followed the life of Philippe Petit as he prepared to walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. An amazing movie – an amazing life.