I am a linguist who loves literature and who is fascinated by science. I quantify randomness. I paint. I travel in a power wheelchair, hoping to capture the ordinary.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Slow time

We must begin to think differently, perhaps: We have all the time in the worldOf course, this is a lie, and we know it. But pushing the egg out of the nest accomplishes little good.

Lottie and Minnie, from elevisions
A lesson delivered in tumbled syllables is not learned. Hurried intimacy is not intimate. Forced conversation does not build the relationship so desired. In the rush for bliss, bliss is lost. This is about restraint and purpose. In our work, it may be about making intellectual connections and diving into the depths of the springs with measured breaths. In our bodies, it may mean long walks and all-natural ingredients. (See, for example, the Slow Food movement.) In our relationships, it may be about listening and tenderness.

John Huckins, a blogger at God's Politics, contemplates the role of "wasting" time in Jesus's life:

As I walked the modern-day ruins of this site, I couldn't help picturing a 20-year-old Jesus working next to his dad while listening and living a radically submerged life within this context. While shaping rock that would act as foundations for buildings whose use he may or may not have agreed with, Jesus was present.

Jesus was not just present for a year or two; he was present for 30 years before entering his formal ministry.There is an element of lingering inherent with submerging. It is a willingness to be present to the point of feeling like we are wasting time, when in reality we are leaving ourselves open to be used by the Spirit in ways we be might otherwise have never been aware of. Lingering is not simply walking aimlessly in circles; it is knowing what we are looking for and being intentional with our time and presence.

Sigur Rós - Glósóli from Arni & Kinski on Vimeo.

In The Creativity Post, Michael Michalko notes that famed surrealist Salvador Dalí, in his search for the artistic visions that populated his works, had a certain technique. He wasted time, drifting in and out of sleep:

His favorite technique is that he would put a tin plate on the floor and then sit by a chair beside it, holding a spoon over the plate. He would then totally relax his body; sometimes he would begin to fall asleep. The moment that he began to doze the spoon would slip from his fingers and clang on the plate, immediately waking him to capture the surreal images. (more here)

How many spoons? How many hours? And yet, do we fault him for this? Should he have been out working harder, painting more, without spoons or tin plates? What kind of artist would he have been? Would our vision of the world have been the same without it?

Two of my favorite children's books talk about the value of giving your heart to the squandered moment: the wandered road or the accidental friendship. In Grasshopper on the Road (1978), an open-minded grasshopper on a walk encounters all sorts of characters: beetles who have political tunnel vision and only love mornings, a worm who is fastidious about his belongings, butterflies who cling to routine, a fly who cannot stop sweeping.

Cat's makeshift home
All of them live in the trance of daily life, without contemplation, filling their days in ways that will never be enough, never make them full. Ah, but the grasshopper, he alone seems happy.

The second book, J.T. by Jane Wagner, is about a young man who is struggling with bullies and with his own sense of morality discovers a half-dead cat. He builds it a makeshift house, feeds it, and visits it every day.Through patience and love for something that has been left to struggle on its own, obviously seen as a "waste of time" to all who had passed by the wretched (beautiful) creature, J.T.'s spirit is transformed. The photographs are by Gordon Parks, Jr. (more here on this and its relevance to black history and film, with spoilers). The book is from a movie, the first part of which I've posted here. I warn you, it is a very, very sad story. But it teaches us something about slow love.

I must admit here that my advocacy of slow living does include some self-interest. It is only with such a mindset that those of us with disabilities become truly equal. It is in the loss of preoccupation with routine and norms that we find space for the diverse physiology and neurology of the human species. Too often, those of us who have disabilities are discarded: our gaze is not met, our words are not heard, our love is not reciprocated. This is not a consequence of the disability itself, but of the social forces that tell us to avoid "wasting" time, that push us to reach our goals as quickly as possible. Indeed, if you spend time with me, things will go more slowly. I might "waste" your time. And the same might be said for the soft-spoken, the tangential thinkers, and those from distant lands. Do we really not have time to lift somebody's weak body out of a car, to wait for well-thought-out words to emerge from hesitant lips, to follow a roundabout path of cognitive connections, or to bear some of the communicative burden of a tongue that carries what we perceive as an accent? What exactly are we here to do?

A focus on the process draws our attention to a space of loving presence.

I admire gleaners, those who pick up odd things from the road because they are interesting, these things others have discarded, forgotten, or simply walked by, unnoticing. I value this because it means they can see as others cannot. It means that, in their eyes, I, too, might be good enough to keep.

French filmmaker Agnès Varda is a visionary, I believe. In the spirit of gleaning, I leave you with her full-length documentary on the idea, both in the history of French art and as a practice of survival in France today.

Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse from WDROTV on Vimeo.

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