Our microwave has an “Express” button on it. I like that. I press the button and my coffee is “nuked,” just like that. Fast. No waiting.
My BlackBerry delivers my emails to me 24/7. I never have to wait to respond.
My iMac has a quad core Intel i5 processor. No waiting there either!
I hate to wait. It makes me crazy. Doesn’t matter where: traffic lights, check-out lines, doctors’ offices. Especially doctors’ offices. Pointless. Such a colossal waste of time, I say.
I move fast. Very fast. Perhaps too fast.
As I move back into the work-a-day routine after nearly a month in the mountains, I ponder this.
My mind drifts back… .
I struggled up the steep snow. The clouds moved in and out. At times I could see down into the valley 6000 feet below where we had trekked a week before. At times I could catch a glimpse of the ridge above at nearly 17,000 feet where we would put Camp 1. But for the most part, I was caught in a world right in front of me, a world of slow motion. A step up. Five or six long breaths. A step up. Five or six long breaths. Another step up.
The sixty pound load bent me forward. My lungs heaved against the thin air. It would take me more than an hour to cover the remaining 900 feet. All that existed was my breathing and the relentless steps.
I found myself, as always, railing against the constraints of altitude. But altitude doesn’t care. Slowing down isn’t an option. High altitude is the great equalizer: everyone moves slowly.
And after a time, moving slowly becomes the way one lives. Moment to moment.
Of course, it’s only after being tossed back into the cauldron that I see the contrast. And I wonder whether living at warp speed is the way one should be in the world.
Driving to work, multi-tasking on the BlackBerry, I miss the alpenglow that shines as surely on the ridgecrest of Sweetheart Mountain in Canton, Connecticut as it does on the steep ramparts of Aconcagua. And I miss the swoop of the owl over the fire road in the Nepaug every bit as glorious as the condor above the Vacas Valley.
All we have is here and now; this moment. And to miss so much of it by moving too fast is a crime.
“How strange it is, our little procession of life!” wrote Stephen Leacock. “The child says, ‘When I am a big boy.’ But what is that? The big boy says, When I grow up.’ And then grown up, he says, ‘When I get married.’ But to be married, what is that after all? The thought changes to ‘When I am able to retire.’ And then, when retirement comes, he looks back over the landscape traversed; a cold wind seems to sweep over it; somehow he has missed it all, and it is gone. Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.”
“Peace is every step,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh. “We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car , a house and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is to be alive.”
Slowing down allows us to be present. It enables us to touch peace.
On the way home from Argentina, I asked Ann what lesson we could bring with us from the mountains. She answered, “we need to be mas tranquilo.”
It will be a project.
A monk said to Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.” “Have you eaten your rice porridge?” asked Joshu. “Yes, I have,” replied the monk. “Then you had better wash your bowl,” said Joshu.