Last night, after a grueling day that left me feeling as lively as an amputated foot, I slumped into a cushioned chair in the lounge of the retirement center, a cup of coffee in my hand. The clock on the wall said 4:47 p.m., a time when a number of residents cluster in the area, waiting for the dining room doors to open. The talk, scattered in the air as a light murmur, was friendly. Then the hour struck, and those around me funneled toward the dinning, still conversing amiably and guiding one another with a gentle hand when necessary. I watched them disappear into the lighted area ahead, noticing the slowness of their pace. Despite a number of canes, there was a grandeur to their progress. In Emily Dickinson’s words, they “knew no haste.”
Watching them disappear in the farther room, I began to wonder why we humans are so enamored with speed. Not only do we desire fast cars with rpm’s never be experienced on a highway, but like children in a marshmallow test, most of us want our rewards sooner rather than later. “Speed is the value that determines winners and losers,” writes David Lidsky. (Fast Company, 12/15/ pg. 26.)
Sometimes, I imagine I grew up in a parallel world. As a child, my teachers cautioned me to slow down. “Stop running in the hall,” they’d say. Or, “Think before you speak.” Overtime, I’ve come to see the wisdom of their advice. If the creators of Netscape had had my teachers, they wouldn’t have expended all their energy on monthly upgrades to their browser, creating a blind spot where their competitors could step in. When the company realized its mistake, the time had passed for them to recover. (Ibid pg. 26.)
But Netscape has left us with a legacy. Speed remains the measure of success. As David Burstein writes in his book, Fast Future, for Millennials, at least, time is always set to fast forward. (Beacon Press, 2013, pg. 27.) Unfortunately, older generations are, “not coping with the rapid rate of change,” he observes. (Ibid, pg.31.)
Are the elderly obsolete, despite their commanding presence as a demographic? Or are the young mistaken in their belief that the race always goes to the swiftest?
Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare aside, the answer lies in the goal. Watching my peers enter the dining room last evening, I understood that time really is relative. Those who walk leisurely to the finish line have the luxury of savoring every second of their existence rather than experiencing it as a blur. Each memory becomes a pearl in the strands of a lustrous life.