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The Way of the Unhurried

Updated: May 29

It doesn't take long to get anywhere from our house. Our neighborhood sits a mile north of downtown Lowell up a steady grade of elevation.

In fact, I'd wager a bet that if I were to get some momentum in our hot rod Honda Odyssey heading down the dirt drive portion of Grindle until the paved downhill, we could slide right into the parking lot of Keiser's Kitchen for some breakfast without touching the gas once. Which also would mean not touching the brakes once, so on second thought that little hypothesis may never be tested for the sake of safety and also avoiding any child endangerment charges.

Suffice it say, I could get us there in a hurry.

This past Memorial Day, we weren't planning on going to the parade. When I had last checked the forecast, it looked like a steady rain and a pall of overcast gloom would pervade, unlike many years when I can remember stepping outside at 6 a.m. to a day already pregnant with humidity, heat, and sunshine to come. As it turned out there wasn't much rain to be seen ahead after all despite the overcast, so when I asked our girls if they still wanted to get to the parade, it was a resounding yes. That didn't mean there wasn't still a fight to get out the door, but such is the parenting life.

We coasted down to the Methodist Church parking lot (applying brakes as needed, mind you) and started on our way down the sidewalk. We hadn't gone six steps before I heard our oldest stop and give an excited shriek. When I turned around, she was crouched down and hunched over with little sister leaning in to see what the fuss was about.

"Dad, it's a rolly poly!" She picked up the tiny arthropod in its protected and probably perturbed armored ball form, held between her two little fingers.

"Alright, well, let him down," I said. "We have to hurry."

She didn't argue it; she and her sister both wanted to see the parade. But we had several minutes to spare, and to get anywhere in Lowell as I mentioned, doesn't take long. Except maybe at 4 p.m. heading east on 21.

But as we walked on and the familiar sights and sounds of the same parade I used to ride my bike at their age, festooned with red, white, and blue streamers, I couldn't help getting caught up on my response to my daughter a moment before.

"We have to hurry."

It's a maniacal mandate that I've bought into hook, line, and sinker, and it pervades almost every area of my life. What's all the more interesting and equally disturbing to me is this is coming from a guy who, by and large, has lived in this little town of Lowell for his whole life. I shudder to think just how harassed and harangued I would be by the tyrant named Urgent had I rooted down in New York or LA.

But it's not just me. You can see it everywhere.

We're always afraid we'll miss something. We're hopelessly worried that the slightly less early bird will only get half the worm or none at all. We want to have the lion's share of the meat before the jackals sink their teeth into it. It might seem logical, but it's a farce. It makes rational sense, but it doesn't compute when set against the currency of wisdom.

As we sat on the curb in front of Main Street BBQ, I kept wondering about my proclivity to hurry. And as I'm prone to do, either by conscious thought or by way of impulse, my mind wandered toward the trove of fictional stories archived and backlogged in the random access memory of my brain. It didn't take me long to realize something amongst all this accumulated story lore, character profiles, and iconic quotes.

The wisest are masters of the unhurried life.

These are the mentor and sage archetypes which are legion throughout literature, ancient and modern, cinema new and old.

Yoda is seemingly about as slow-moving and slow-thinking as they come, at least from Luke's perspective. But then, he never saw him run circles around Count Dooku decades prior. Despite Luke's notorious and incessant complaint as it pertains to the speed of his training, Master Yoda remains the most ardent proponent of patience. And in the end, though Luke has to learn the hard way first by facing his soon-to-be-revealed father before he is ready, Yoda's teaching prevails.

My girls are big fans of Po, the titular 'Kung Fu Panda,' and I'm a Jack Black man-crusher. That guy can do anything and all with the confidence of ten men.

Po's master in the first movie who appears in spirit in the others is Oogway, an elderly and near-decrepit looking tortoise who is the very personification of slow and steady. The profundity of dialogue found in movies marketed toward six to ten-year-old children never ceases to amaze me, and the insertion of this unattributed quote proved no exception as Oogway imparted it to an anxious, frustrated, and downtrodden Po:

"You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."

Ouch and touché, Master Oogway.

I'd have to imagine that were one to put these two fictional sages to the task of codifying and scribing out their philosophy you'd end up with a revered tome with a title along the lines of 'The Way of the Unhurried".

As I watched my daughters revel in the moment and simplicity of army vehicles and firetrucks cruising at the slowest possible pace while the flag mounted into the sidewalk just above us waved leisurely in the wind, I remembered again the precious nature of the present.

It's something that's going to be all the more important for me to keep in the fore of my mind as I enter into the summer when I get the blessing of a sabbatical from my work as worship arts director at Impact Church here in town. For a little over 10 weeks, I will be able to focus on my family and enjoy the beauty of a Michigan summer. I'll be able to slow down, read, write, and regain energy lost, much of it flushed away in relentless and reckless pursuit of hurry, in fact.

As we walked back down Main Street toward our car, I was reminded that in fact, "A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."

I don't know about you, but given the choice, I'd rather be a Gandalf in my old age. A sage who in his last days could look back and say with confidence, surety and a notable lack of regret that he took the gift of the present and unwrapped it to reveal all the trappings of life we most long for, yet so often go unseen.

I'm looking forward to walking in anything but a hurry this summer. If you see me running, it's for leisure and exercise, not because I'm falling into the bad habits of the White Rabbit and tricking myself into thinking I'm running late for a very unimportant date. At least I hope not.

What I do hope is that in small measured ways, the restless hustle and hurry go by the wayside in favor of the fundamental fullness that living steeped in the lore of the wise can bring.

I'll see you on the sidewalk.

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