Monday, February 10, 2014

Stop and Smell the Roses

Over a month into the New Year and frankly, life is going in a much more relaxed and enjoyable direction.  To be honest it is frighteningly normal, thus there is not much of consequence to post in the ether.  However, an article from the Washington Post recently caught my attention for a variety of reasons and has sparked a few thoughts that seemed worth sharing.  Here is the link to this article:
The general premise is that the Post conducted a social experiment with the aid of a world renowned violinist in a Washington DC metro station during the morning rush hour.  The question posed was simple; would people stop and appreciate this remarkable musician or simply rush by in a time driven distraction without a second thought.  The results of this were documented and spoke volumes about the world we find ourselves operating in.  The monumental implications of this simple experiment reach far and wide.  Although this was conducted in 2007, it seems that the results would likely be similar today.
So why did this old article stick out and prompt the clicking sounds of keys on a keyboard- many things.  The first was the violinist- Joshua Bell.  A few years ago, two dear family friends had tickets to the Kansas City Symphony that they gave to my father and I.  Huge fans of music in general this was a first for both of us to go see the KC Symphony live at the Kauffman Center.  One of the featured musicians that day was none other than Joshua Bell.  He is talented, amazing to hear, astounding to watch and most definitely a musician that leaves an impression of the musical beauty that exists in the world.  At the end of 2013 we lost one of those generous friends who afforded us this brilliant experience that is still vividly in my mind.  A subtle reminder of how lucky I was to know her, to call her a second mom, to be able to remember the awesomely wonderful experiences that I was able to have in large part because of her generous spirit and how I will always have that beauty with me forever.
The second is the utter astonishment of how many people simply missed this moment.  Walked past this world famous, highly paid musician, playing an incredibly difficult and complex piece of music on a very expensive instrument like there was nothing worth noticing.  How time obsessed are we in this society; is this possibly the root of our problems and issues in general.  In general it seems to indicate that we become so focused on time that we no longer have the ability to focus on anything else. This general thought process applies to so many things really that connect to our understanding of “time.”  Take for example texting and driving- is there ANY message that I could possible get or miss that is worth my life; that cannot wait another 5, 10 or even 30 minutes- doubtful.  I say this because that information will likely still be the same whether it is read the moment it reaches your phone or once your car is in park.  Don’t believe me, look back through your text history and see if there was any recent message that you simply could not have waited 30 minutes to respond to.  The same can be said for speeding as well, is 5 minutes really going to make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of the places you need to go- probably not.  Sure you might get in a small amount of trouble, or you might even get fired if it is habitual but that is a different issue that has nothing to do with speed, other drivers, or rules of the road. 
We are so obsessed with time and tasks associated with time.  I think back to how many times I was so concerned about what needed to be done that I was unable to really stop and take in what was happening.  The tasks that were somehow associated with a timeline in my mind took over my whole thought process.  Often I would be unable to tell you what I ate for lunch or even who I talked to at lunch because of this.  Now this is even more compounded by the technology we are attached to.  Thinking back can you remember the little things in your day or did you miss them because you were focused on something else that was “time” related in your mind.
The third then is the connection to the message of the experiment.  Could this simple message that we have all heard in our lives truly be the key to those moments of pure happiness that seem to be missing from the world sometimes.  I want to believe that if I had been one of the commuters that day in the DC Metro station that I would have decided that today was a day to be late; that I would have stopped and taken in the beauty and wonder of that experience.  I want to believe that I stop and enjoy the little things in life- the beauty of the falling snow, stories from friends or other loved ones, that I take those moments to focus and clear my mind of all the usual stuff that weighs upon it and just focus. 
Mostly, thinking back over recent events in my life, there is a ping pong match occurring for me.  When I read, or dine out my focus is more often on remembering and savoring the experience that I am having at that moment.  Since the changes in my life I find myself more willing to wait for the trains to pass, taking in some of the amazing (though illegal) art that decorates many of the cars; more willing to slow for pedestrians or other cars; more patient when cleaning off the snow or trying to get through the snow.  Occasionally; however, I do get caught up in the details of time.  I have to get to the bank so I drive less courteously, I get anxious and less patient with others in general.   What’s the rush?  The store will still be there; the bank will be open again tomorrow; work will not cease to function until I appear.  The rush only really occurs when I decide to let it rule, or poorly plan out the general events of my daily life and routine.  This is something that I can control.

So, that is what I have decided to make my resolution for 2014 (yes it may be a bit late in the traditional since of time of year; but a resolution can be made at any given moment if you are resolute in your pursuit of it).  This year I will stop wearing a watch every day and instead only wear it occasionally.  I will stop obsessing with the clocks in my life by either removing them, covering them, or simply training myself to not look at them as often.   I will focus more on moments and the things around me than what is on the future “to do” list.  I will make a concerted effort to plan my general day to day appropriately so that “rush” or “I’ve got to get this done” is no longer a part of my daily vocabulary.  It may not be the answer to everything, but it is a start. This is not to say that time does not have a place in life, it does.  The goal is that life not be driven by time but simply guided by its principle.