Today’s Word: Tempo

Slowing down enough to see this. SJG photo.

On this lazy Sunday morning, Sue and I are sitting on the porch doing “nothing,” although that’s never really true, is it? We are reading and writing. We are listening to the birds and staring at the stems of all our flowers that have been eaten by the deer and the rabbits (argh!) We are enjoying a cup of coffee and some fresh fruit. We are being present to one another even when we don’t speak. We are praying and being present to God. Is all that nothing or something? I think it’s something important.

So caught up in the business and busy-ness of our work and lives, we can all sometimes feel guilty about doing “nothing.” But, of course, it is exactly this nothingness that we need. We need time to unplug, time to refuel, time to remove ourselves from the rest of life so that we can be, in fact, better for the rest of life, better for those who need us, better for the work that needs to be done.

Or as Thomas Merton once wrote, “We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen.” And that’s the point, isn’t it? That human tempo. It’s all too easy to lose, once we get caught up in all the non-human tempos around us. The tempo of the commute. The tempo of the work schedule. The tempo of our children’s (or grandchildren’s) lives, which can seem all too inhuman at times. The tempo, even, of the music we pump into our cars and earbuds.

All those other tempos are good and even necessary. We need to get our hearts pumping faster to stay healthy, and some upbeat music is sometimes just the trick to help. We need to move faster to stay on schedule and meet the deadlines and get the kids to where they need to be on time. But what we sometimes lose is the necessity for doing the opposite. For slowing down. For quieting down. For listening.

For only then can we really pay attention to what’s going around us. Only then can we see how God is present, how God has always been present, waving to us, beckoning us to slow down and spend some time together. Pull over. Stop.

Ask yourself in silence: By what and whose tempo am I operating today?

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