One hundred and twenty wealthy and famous people are on the last leg of their six day drive from London to Monaco. The annual car race, known as the "Gum Ball 3000," is famous for attracting participants with an appetite for fast, big-engined cars. The competitors received 59 speeding tickets between them in their journey through Croatia alone. The entry fee is £10,000 but they seem to think the chance to live life in the fast-lane for a week is worth it.
There is another view of life. Carl Honore Orion has written a book entitled 'In Praise of Slow’. In it, describes movements throughout the world to encourage us all to go slower. There is for example the Sloth Club in Japan and the Society for the Deceleration of Time.
Many of us these days rush through life. As Orion suggests, often the first thing we do on waking is to look at the clock; timepieces of one sort or another are our constant companion throughout the day. Perhaps it would be worth trying to be less dependent on our watches and ready to congratulate ourselves on how slowly we did something.
A growing number of organisations around the world are devoted to offering a different model of life to the speed of the Gum Ball 3000. Decelerating is catching on fast so if we’re not to be left behind we’d better hurry up and start slowing down!
The celebration in Italy today of Epiphany will include a visit to many households of La Befana. She will put presents in stockings left out by the children. Tradition has it that she was invited by the Wise Men to accompany them in their search for baby Jesus. She refused because, she said, she was too busy with household tasks.
Later she changed her mind and ran after them with gifts for the Christ child and carrying her broom. Although magically she began to fly on her broom, she couldn’t find them but stopped every child she met to give them a treat in the hope that one of them was the Christ child.
A tradition in which La Befana dropped everything and immediately went with the Wise Men would simply not have developed. It was because of what happened when she missed her opportunity that she has become a legend.
There are times in the lives of most people when they become aware of an opportunity missed. Sometimes it becomes clear straight away and at others, months or even years can pass before the realisation dawns. Either way it is a sad experience, often filled with regret. The excitement and delight La Befana brings to the lives of many young Italians only happens because, according to the story, she missed her chance to go with the Magi.
Perhaps today we might reconsider any such regrets about previous failures to seize opportunities. What happened instead, even though we don’t realise it, might have been even more rewarding for us and beneficial to others.
On Sunday, a new series started on British television. In just four hour-long episodes we encompass the 480 pages of the book of Jane Eyre, all part of a general trend to dispense with the long sprawling serials that kept the nation going for weeks as the story gently unfolded. “People want things to be faster-paced,” says the Head of BBC Drama, “they can’t be bothered with every tiny detail any longer”.
There is an increasing impatience today. People want things to happen now. The Bible thinks of time in two distinct ways. There is ongoing time, chronological time; and there is kairos which suggests a significant moment, a time of opportunity or fulfilment. Sometimes we need to wait because the moment for something to happen is not yet right, we need the patience to let things unfold at their own pace, we need to trust that things will move forward as they are meant to. For Christians, such trust is in God who has a view of time from beyond time and can see a pattern in things to which we are blind. But many people, whether religious or not, find that patience is rewarded.
Today, let’s be watchful for the kairos moments when now is the right time for a particular action or word or event. But meanwhile, let’s accept a slower pace in the belief that trusting in life to unfold in its own time brings dividends.