If you want to live life free
Take your time. go slowly
If you want your dream to be
Take your time, go slowly.*
Solving interesting problems is the best work we can do.
Seeing the world as it is, offering people dignity, choosing to make a difference… none of these are fast and easy paths, but we do them anyway.**
There’ll always be interesting problems.
Living in a material universe guarantees this. Materiality means everything is always changing. Alan Lightman reflects:
“Nothing persists in the material world. All of it changes and passes away.”^
Interesting is in the eye of the beholder. That’s the amazing world of diversity.
Lightman has found a place to live and a way of living, things we each need to find. As his body wears down and his life moves towards its end, Lightman speaks of finding wisdom:
“As the seconds tick by, I breathe one breath at a time. I inhale, I exhale. These spruces and cedars I cherish and know, the wind, the sweet scent of moist and dark soil – these are my small sense of enlightenment, my past life and present life and future life all in one moment.”^
We meet the interesting problems with who we are becoming slowly, a slowness more disrupting than fastness.
Youngme Moon tells of a performance she attended of a then unknown and young Whoopi Goldberg:
‘I remember going to the show with a set of expectations – I expected it to be funny, perhaps even sidesplittingly funny – but as it turned out, the most memorable aspect of the show was not its humour but its poignancy; the show was streetwise and gritty, at times heartbreakingly so.’^^
My friend Alex McManus suggests we long for a life that is an immersive, interactive, integrated and impactful. This deeper life is contained, it seems to me, in the words Moon uses for Whoopi’s performance: yes please to humour, but we also desire poignancy and grit, and even something to break our hearts.
Each of us is capable of such a performance. Albert Camus spoke about how:
‘Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves.’*^
They are whispers to be listened for, so we must listen carefully:
‘Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.’*^
Hope is to be found in the living of many lives slowly, persistently stepping out from the norm:
‘Some say that this hope lies in a nation; others, in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of individuals whose deeds and work every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundation of his own sufferings and joys, builds for all.’*^
(*Donovan Leitch, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Speaking up about what could be better.)
(^Alan Lightman, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Alan Lightman on the Longing for Absolutes.)
(^^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(*^From Albert Camus’ Create Dangerously.)