The slower you go, the faster you get where you are going…
— Phoenix Aurelius
I remember being a little kid, and having wonders and curiosities about the world. I spent a lot of time alone, and preferred it that way. Home life was fairly typical, as I recall, but carried on the air was angst, desperation, frustration, and cynicism. My parents worked hard, made some good choices, and some bad. We weren’t struggling with money, but we weren’t free of it, either. So, really, I didn’t have much to complain about, yet there were always reasons to complain… at least, what lingers most in my memory of my childhood and youth was the ever-present heaviness of hope, missed opportunities, miscommunication, sadness and sprinkled here and there was a genuine moment of bliss.
Worries about adult things, politics, and career and such, didn’t come until later. We don’t really care about these things as kids, do we? Sure, we can pretend to understand, but we don’t adopt any sort of cynical responses to the news hour for now. Time is an altogether different aspect of my days, merging at random unbridled exploration, destroying a few sticks in the fervent pursuit of an epic slapshot, trying to kick the ball clear across the length of the field, seeing just how strong that highest branch in the tree is, or hunting down that creepy, silent muskrat. I did eventually hit the thing in the head with a small rock, at a remarkable distance, too. Something about that experience changed me forever. Perhaps it triggered a deep remembering; I could kill another living thing, and that felt awful. You can’t take those things back.
I can probably remember every moment in my life when I hurt someone. Whether I was trying to fit in, trying to be cool, or just impulsively acting stupid, those events imprinted and stuck around – more readily than the great moments, it seems. Personal achievements are something to take pride in, to be sure, but I was rarely one to take pride. I hated the spotlight, and it felt much more natural to help someone else do something difficult, inspiring, or otherwise impressive. They were daring to try, and I wanted a part of that action. Some of those memories surface from time to time.
I’ve had a good life, but I don’t feel like I’ve done nearly enough.
One way in which the buildings of Source Temple telegraph wealth is that, in terms of hours of labor per square meter of floor space, they are extremely inefficient. It takes many long hours to assemble a window or a door from scratch, compared to a few minutes to buy one at Home Despot. Yes, someone’s labor contributed to the factory-made window too, but the whole industrial system and its economics are geared toward minimizing the labor, a goal achieved through technology and standardized processes. The result is a cheapness, a poverty, because all of these products embody the precept of not enough time. That is what efficiency encodes. We have to hurry. We have to do it quicker. Efficiency embodies a mentality of scarcity. We can’t afford the time to really make it beautiful.
I’ve never bought into the hustle. I’ve never had any interest in selling, promoting, or advertising myself as a product. I’ve seen friends and family work very hard, trying to build a business, or career, only to get burned out, to ruin relationships, to fail financially, or to compromise their health. But maybe that’s the gamble. As mentioned earlier, I’ve put myself into situations wherein I was helping someone to achieve something they were driven to do. I’d have to bend myself a bit out of shape to fit in, often compromising my sensibilities, my values, beating up my body and mind, adopting some kind of transitory cloak that was deemed necessary in that time and place to be useful. I would unconsciously take on the role of being “part of something” and hide myself within the activity of pursuing someone else’s success…
Naturally, I would learn, I would grow, and I would discover more about myself. But, inevitably, I would feel the longing for a more personal pursuit, as chasing someone else’s dream was, at best, a superficial method of satisfying my own soul’s desires. But within that diversion was the gift of intrinsic and extrinsic betterment, even if it wasn’t apparent at the time.
When opportunities arose that would allow me to once again begin anew my search for purpose, place, and passion, I would rush into furious activity to try to make up for lost time. A project would finally get finished, and sent out into the world. A few more projects would get started, and again find their spots on the Shelf of the Unfinished; life will always provide us artists the means with which to delay, defer, distract, and dissuade – especially if it’s a struggle to earn enough money to get by, toiling away at our creations in relative obscurity.
. . .
I believe many of us do what is completely unnatural in order to feign productivity, progress, fitting in, or the pursuit of happiness. It becomes more about basic survival, than anything that resembles courage and thriving. Maybe we are seeking a tribe, or trying to fill in the emotional or existential gaps our parents left in us. We employ artifacts, concepts, and the less artful methodologies instructed into us, borrowed from others, who themselves had borrowed it from another… We trip and fall over half-baked, conflicting or contrasting belief systems, and choke on our haphazardly adopted values and opinions. We rush and rely on desperation to animate and energize our cells, so to push us out of bed in the morning, displacing our real work with jobs and mere survival.
Until, one day, we must process the mess, integrate the truth, and awkwardly level up.
In quietude and contemplation is the only space wherein we have any chance of understanding and grasping the billions of inputs and motions and outputs and emotions that came before that moment. It is there we can appreciate and codify memories we’ve been part of creating. It is only there, in this entirely personal, vibrant autumnal pause, where we may gather the fruits of our many metaphysical harvests.
And so, I argue, if we never slow down, we may never level up.
If we’re only ever doing and doing and doing, all-powerful beingness and quiet ethereal guidance is subsumed into activity, limiting any of the necessary nutrient absorption. Without any sort of introspection and purposeful recapitulation, we’re only ever working the same muscles, the same neural pathways, and driving the same roads. The result, of course, is ennui, exasperation, or the very palpable sense of being incomplete.