The most beautiful and lovely things always have been, and always will be, slow.
Almost anything moving fast is naturally appealing. Where I live there is a kind of zoo called the San Diego Safari Park.
Essentially the Safari Park is 1,800 acres of Africa relocated to north San Diego county. (By comparison, the more famous San Diego Zoo is 100 acres.) At the Safari Park there is a lot of land for animals to cover if they get motivated to take off running. Sometimes there is motivation. It is just awesome to watch a gazelle trucking across the savannah. Or there is this bighorn sheep exhibit that is basically a hundred-foot sheer rocky cliff. Occasionally you get lucky and see one of these beasts leaping up (or down!) the cliff like a bullet. Fast is beautiful.
When my daughters were younger I often traveled for business. Returning home from a trip, Leanne would bring the family to pick me up from the airport. I would get through security and make eye contact with my daughters. The older ones smiled but played it cool and waited for me. The younger one took off running. Trying to look like an adorable dad getting home from a long trip, I stopped walking, swatted down, and spread out my arms for a big hug. And waited. My kneecaps began to swell. Lactic acid stabbed like switchblades into my butt cheeks. All smiles and big eyes, she had wobbled half the distance and I was growing faint. Slow is more beautiful.
Of course, by comparison, my toddler was moving at breakneck speed. When I think about how long it will take her to reach her sweet sixteen (she’s nine-years-old now), her airport sprint happened as quickly as a text message. Her older sister is about to turn sixteen. Perhaps it is just me, but as cute as it was to see my toddler race across the airport, it is far more lovely to see a sixteen-year-old who has grown up well. And I suspect when our next daughter reaches sixteen, it will be more lovely to have seen two children make it that far. And when that little wobbler finally makes it to sixteen, it will be more lovely still. Because the most beautiful and lovely things happen slowly.
For a while I have been thinking about this. Here is a sampling of what takes place slowly and will never speed up. The list is relative, some things take longer than others. The point is all of these things happen at a pace slower than our culture’s obsession with speed, and all of these things will never happen faster than they do now. And all of these things are beautiful and lovely because they happen slowly:
The time it takes to grow food naturally. How long it takes to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How long it takes to make coffee in a French press. Roasting a marshmallow properly, that is, light brown with a hint of crispy shell. The time it takes to own a dog until it gets old and you have to put it down. How long it takes the red-tailed hawks behind our house to glide from one end of the sky to the other. How long it takes gray whales to migrate from Alaska past San Diego to Baja California where they have their babies. How long it takes for a kitten to stop being cute and turn into an annoying cat. A fifteen-minute nap. A good night’s sleep. A big yawn and long stretch. A one-mile stroll. A two-hour hike. Reading a book. Writing a story. The time it takes to gestate a human baby. The number of days until a child’s first birthday. How long it takes to be married for twenty years. The time it takes to live until you have lived to a ripe old age.
Our speed-obsessed culture glories in innovation and the new. What is the next new thing and did we get it faster than we got the last next new thing? But the most beautiful and lovely things are not new and do not come at us faster than before. Maybe we need less innovation and instead could use a dose of remembrance. Then we could recall how good it is to wait on what is best.
Dave is an author, educator, and advocate of living simply. Dave has spoken nationally and internationally about simplicity. He has appeared in Time Magazine, Mother Jones Magazine, the London Times, and The Guardian, and has been a guest of the 700 Club. His book The 100 Thing Challenge (HarperCollins, 2010) tells the story of his simple-living journey and the worldwide movement it contributed to. Dave holds an M.A. from Wheaton College and a B.A. from Moody Bible Institute. He works at Point Loma Nazarene University and lives in San Diego with his wife and three daughters.
Somebody who appreciates the pinnacle of marshmallow-roasting! Hurrah! Seriously though, this is lovely.
Hi David, Thanks for the wonderful post! As someone who loves to sit quietly in the woods, I have often thought about this in relation to trees. This is a song I wrote about it 🙂 https://soundcloud.com/markdproctor/resting-space
We have forgotten how to remember. It seems like part II of this post would be looking at innovative ways to remember. I would love to chat if you think you might want to write a Part II to this post.
I am working on a form of counseling that uses music to help meditate on the Scriptures. Essentially, it’s just another way to get the Church interested in Lectio Divina of the Scriptures.
Good read and good reminder to see how slow is good in any number of areas of our lives.
I hope the pendulum will swing towards the slow in our fast-obsessed culture. But I suspect not. Wrapped up in the slow is the practice of patience, and that is something we all shy from. Thanks for this, David, I appreciated you words this morning!
Thank you for the reminder of how “good it is to wait on what is best.” After pondering this for a day, I’ve started to create my own list of things that are “beautiful because they happen slowly.” One of the most striking things to me is the nature of the Gospel. The promise of redemption was given right away in Genesis 3. But, redemption was longed-for and waited-on for centuries. When Christ came, “in the fullness of time” (Ephesians 1.10, Galatians 4.4), it was a beautiful thing indeed!
I love this list – I just keep rereading that paragraph. Thank you for sharing this!
Also, I want to go to that safari park. That sounds amazing!
Thanks for all the great comments…and song! Anna, I love how your bring us around to the best of the best slow thing.
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