The quiet of power
…slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power. – Elizabeth Coatsworth
Recently I read a book that discussed the pervasive effects of technology on how we view ourselves. The author explained that the increasing speed of computer processing leaves us feeling less intelligent when we cannot keep up with the machine’s pace. But he pointed out that humans have capabilities that no machine will ever be able to duplicate, and there is more to ability than speed.
Our world seems little inclined to value a slow pace in anything. We expect gadgets, cars, service providers and even schoolchildren to deliver the quick results we want, and waiting for anything taxes our ever-decreasing stores of patience. Pursuits that can be done more rapidly by machine or assembly-line procedures have consigned such arts as sewing, cooking and woodworking to the category of “hobbies” rather than occupations.
Sometimes we sense that life is not meant to move at such breakneck speeds, but we feel vaguely guilty and inefficient when we slow down — but even if we are enjoying our deliberate pace, someone else is likely to come along and pressure us to step it up. Exhausted, we fall into bed each night with tomorrow’s “to-do” list nagging at us from a far corner of our brain, if not the front and center of our last waking thoughts.
We have heard “time is money” so often that we may begin to think we can never have enough of either. That might be true, but only if we allow it to be. Time pressure can create the illusion that frenzied acceleration will serve us, but haste really does make waste in some circumstances. Power need not depend upon speed; often, it is quiet and steadfast, as with the drops of water that gradually wear away solid rock.
Today, I invite you to celebrate with me the beauty of slow things. Turn off the television’s frantic voices of urgency, whether in the news or on commercials, and turn on some Debussy or Brahms or Enya. Fill the kettle to the top and watch the tiny bubbles gradually forming as the water comes to a boil. Breathe deeply, taking in the unique aroma of the fruit or bread or coffee you enjoy. I wish you blissful hours that pass at a relaxing tempo, leaving you serenely smiling at day’s end.