Hey Man Slow Down: The Speed of Life

I have been reflecting back on the speed that life has taken on. All of life’s distractions, duties, and the pace at which it seems like we must get things done has been pulling me away from the simple and quiet life that one needs in order to maintain a peaceful and love-filled life.

55392701 E595F72299 O The other day I was running late to catch Pasadena’s Gold Line (light rail) on my way home when I got to the ticket machine. I didn’t have my usual tokens, which are the easiest and fastest way to get a ticket. Because of this I had to carefully try and jam my dollar into its slot and my quarter into its slot, all the while the train was coming to a stop 10 feet behind me. You’re never sure whether the train will actually wait for you or not, so panic rose, I hate being seconds too late to catch the train.

Just then I noticed a European accented man asking for help at the machine beside mine. He didn’t know what the normal protocol was for getting a token out of the machine (to his defense LA’s system isn’t all that clear). I nodded my head to acknowledge that he was in fact putting the dollar in the appropriate slot but that’s was all the help I was going to offer him, as I hurriedly move toward the train. On my way I caught the problem out of the corner of my eye, he was trying to put the dollar in upside down that’s why it wasn’t working for him. I didn’t take the time to stop until I had parked my bike on the train and watched him from the window inside. He continued to try and force his one dollar bill upside down into the machine, hoping for it to go this time. To my surprise the train actually waited for him another 25 or 30 seconds (for a train that’s a long time) but he didn’t get it in fast enough – so we sped off into the tunnel.

I stood there holding my bike, amazed at my own lack of awareness toward other’s needs and my own selfishness. If I would have taken 15 more seconds I could have helped him and we would have both made the train with no problems.
A Lament for the Speed of Life
ThomvideocontrThom Yorke lead singer for Radiohead wrote a song call the tourist that goes like this:

It barks at no else but me
Like it’s seen a ghost
I guess it seen the sparks a-flowing
No one else would know

Hey man, slow down
Slow down
Idiot, slow down
Slow down

Sometimes I get overcharged
That’s when you see sparks
You ask me where the hell i’m going?
At a thousand feet per second

Hey man, slow down
Slow down
Idiot, slow down
slow down
Hey man, slow down
Slow down
Idiot, slow down
slow down

Apparently God has some has some deal with Radiohead, because I swear their songs play through my head more often as songs of lament and worship than anything else. This song played through my head as I road the train away that day, something simple, possible even silly for some, but for me I realized I’ve been moving “At a thousand feet per second??? and felt as thought God were saying to me “Hey man slow down.??? Because at this speed I’ve been traveling at I don’t have time for anyone else. Are we tourists in this life or residents? Are we running from site to site, attraction to attraction, relationship to relationship trying to see as much as we possibly can cram into our 24 hours days or are we absorbing as much of life and drinking in every moment we have?

It reminds me of when we got married – August 18, 2001. We planned for that day for over 9 months, desperately worrying, arguing, and struggling to make everything go “perfect.??? Now that day is slightly more than a blur – I only remember the very important things about that day – my wife Emily’s grace and beauty, our family being there and those close friends who meant the world to us. I remember thinking that day – that I wanted to drink in every moment, savor every second that past, and yet somehow it flew by so quickly because there was so much planned to happen, so much to get down; only the most important things get remembered.

I think this moment on the train is a moment that is worth remembering – its something I’ve been talking about for a long time saying things like, “we need to slow down and pay attention to each other.??? I even wrote a post back in the fall (I can’t find the post) about riding the train and making sure I interacted with the people I ride with daily (and another about how fast I like to go). And yet when that moment arises it slips out of my hands because of the speed at which I am going.

There are many things that play into this distraction of noise and speed in our times, and so I will focus my attention on these for my next post.

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Published by Wess Daniels

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College.

3 thoughts on “Hey Man Slow Down: The Speed of Life

  1. Pasadena is a busy place. It’s not as busy as some place in CA, but it can keep you moving. I lived in Hollywood and Pasadena between 91-94. It was quite an experience! I hope you can find your balance …

    You write, “Apparently God has some has some deal with Radiohead.”

    Lol! I personally think God has a deal with Pearl Jam! I like to think so anyway …

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