all of the selves we Have ever been
If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far,
go together. – African Proverb
Speed is the thing.
It is the only thing.
We want express lanes and speedy deliveries, fast food and speed dating, prompt responses and high-speed internet. We prefer snap judgments and quick reads, fast-acting elixirs and rapid relief.
Forethought and careful attention to detail are as extinct as dinosaurs. Demand either today and your age is showing. And your new name is Karen. You will be tossed into the category of emotional extremist faster than you can swallow your dignity. Accuracy is not to be factored into the results so long as we are going as fast as we can. Destination is superfluous. In the prescient words of Yogi Berra, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”
Here is the latest example. My friend Angie placed an Amazon order. Within the promised hours, Angie’s phone pinged an alert. The delivery driver was eight doors away. Angie waited a few minutes and then opened her front door. Ta-da! Prime magic. A package had appeared on her porch.
Puzzled by the size of the box, Angie picked it up and studied the shipping label. The name and address belonged to a neighbor. Suspecting a mix-up by a harried delivery driver with a full bladder, Angie carried the package to the neighbor’s house. Sure enough, the package intended for Angie was on the neighbor’s porch. Fearful of being mistaken for a porch pirate, Angie knocked and traded parcels with her neighbor.
Back home, Angie opened the box and removed the paper, the bubble wrap, and the plastic shrink wrap. Through some sleight of hand, the item in the box was not what Angie had ordered: wrong address, wrong item, but “on time.”
There is some black magic that I can’t comprehend. Speed has been separated from time and results. Age may be a factor in my befuddlement, but age seems like a convenient stereotype to explain away this turn of events. I find myself looking for speed bumps, something to calm the traffic and prevent accidents.
Many of us are just not fast lane people. We never were. We obey the speed limit, brake for squirrels, read the road signs, slow down and let others merge. We study the billboards and mentally correct the grammar, memorize the faces of missing children, ponder the Bible verses, and take note of the new businesses. If a caution sign says work area ahead, speed limit 50 mph, we’re willing to risk our lives for the sake of others. We…slow…down.
Growing up in a different era reinforced my already unshakeable predisposition to travel in the slow lane. “Pay attention” was the theme song of my youth. We painstakingly practiced penmanship and served time in detention for running in the hallways at school. Adults were there to borrow from John Wooden and remind us: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” We lived a life of lazy Saturday mornings lounging in our PJs until noon. We spent Sunday afternoons our grandmother’s house when all the shops were closed and a family dinner took all day. We were encouraged to slow down, take our time, do things right. The only thing we were in a hurry to do was grow up, and my mother warned us about that, too: “Don’t wish your life away.” Perhaps she was influenced by Shakespeare’s Macbeth who warned us of the “brief candle” that is our lives.
Now, after a lifetime of temperament and conditioning, I find myself pressed to choose speed over satisfaction, action over forethought, frantic energy over peace of mind. Shoot me an acronym-filled text message, there’s no time to talk. Or listen. Life is zipping away. I can’t help but wonder, are we really saving time with all of this speed? If so, what is everyone doing with all of the extra time? Collapsing from exhaustion?
When our loved ones travel or begin a new adventure, we wish them God speed. God speed is a blessing, not a curse. It is a prayer that the traveler will arrive, not swiftly, but safely and well. God speed implies fidelity, an old word meaning faithful and true. The right package reaching the right house at the right time in the right condition for the right reasons to serve the right purpose.
I wasn’t built for life in the fast lane, and I don’t like going it alone. I find the journey safer and more enjoyable when I share the road with others. I am older now, but I still have far to go. I want the journey to be for the rights reasons and serving the right purpose. Will you come with me? We’ll go together. At God speed.