Second Thoughts on “Speed”

”Speed” – I’ve been thinking about speed lately. In a lot of discussions on making choices and making judgments, it’s reduced to limited options of whether one should or shouldn’t choose, can we or must we judge. But perhaps the issue is more about speed than anything else.

The fact is, it’s impossible to live life without making choices. We make judgments whether we like it or not. Sometimes, the way we act is birthed out of sincerity combined with some wisdom; other times we’re plain prejudiced and wrongheaded. Upon deeper reflection, our troubles often spring from allowing our judgments to leap forward a little too quickly.

Too fast, before we step back a little and get a better picture, which to me means a fuller picture. Not perfect, not one with every single detail sorted out. It’s a picture which will be subject to revision or at least fine-tuning. This “slow to anger” business, an ancient author reminded a bunch of fast shooting church members of old, has good sense in it.

”Quick to listen” was what James was advocating. Slow down judgment but speed up the understanding. Simple. But it’s hard. Because there’s so much within us—experience, reading, insights, lessons, tons of “wisdom”—waiting to ooze out and fix the “problem” before us.

Being “slow to anger” and “quick to listen” to me involves emptying oneself at least for the moment. It involves creating space for the “other” to simply be, for a moment. Our role is more as a companion, to walk alongside those who are genuinely seeking to make sense of life in all it’s complexities. This act of “kenosis,” i.e. the emptying of ourselves, or by implication the restraint of or limiting our “power” doesn’t mean we jump into the mud of these complexities uncritically; but it does give the phrase “getting our hands dirty” a fresh twist.

When we are in the midst of this process, we will need to confront the insecurity and uncertainty it brings. But we don’t have to be afraid, especially when our faith is in the One who holds on to us (somehow and in some way!). Our experience on earth however at times borders on hell-like—we don’t need to die before we step into “purgatory”—and the intensity of limping through our daily hours might purge us enough.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? It might not feel that way at first, but the struggle hints that there is. And gradually, the hints become a real hope. But this too cannot be hurried.

I got a phone call the other night. A little surprised but delighted. Surprised because it was totally unexpected and really out of the blue. Delighted because it became another “ceremony of closure” on an episode of “emptying” on my part during a period when I sincerely rolled into the mud of some serious pain and hurts of “others”. Again, it’s often on hindsight that we are able to make some sense of these matters.

1 month, 1 year, is too short to really have a fresh look. 5 to 10 works a little better. That’s too slow? But then I’m still talking about speed right?

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