Perhaps dear reader you might like to be a fly on the wall and listen in as I spend a little time bartering with the devil.
The man who gave us advice on how to negotiate the road to Alton was oh so kind and well meaning:
“Do watch the lorries as they sweep round bends…do be careful as drivers are known to drive really fast as they approach the town….” and on he went!
I was sorely tempted to put Him right with, “Listen sunshine, Jane and I have walked 1800 miles round Britain recently and there is nothing we haven’t already seen on UK roads with cars tearing along so fast they make Silverstone look like a roller skating rink. We’ve faced lorries and white vans that we’re convinced were trying to kill us…we reckon by now we know more about roads than Old Man Macadam ever did so keep your impertinent advice to yourself, and don’t tell Andy Murray how to hold his racket, do you understand?”
But he was trying to help us and was so kind and a supporter and donor so I thanked him for his great solicitude and kindness and we went on our way.
Devil 0, virtue 1
Staying with Gordon and Sally Scutt I was reminded of the story about the charismatic cardinal of Westminster Basil Hume when he was headmaster of Ampleforth college. I was told this tale by a former pupil who said that after forty years he could still recall an electrifying encounter with Hume when a class of fifty boys, aged I suppose 17 or so, decided that the gospel was a tedious irrelevance to their lives:
” Look sir,” said one representative of his friends, ” Henry here is going into the city. George has a family business to look after him; Marcus will inherit an estate and I’m going into the army. What possible use is “religion” or the “gospel” to us?”
Hume answered quietly thus;
” Gentlemen there are fifty of you in this class. Statistically at least twenty five of you will have marriage difficulties that involve betrayal and endless misery. Sixteen of you will know the pain of divorce. Eighteen of you will suffer serious financial difficulties, six will go bankrupt. Twenty five of you will face serious issues with your children; two will go to prison (and you doubtless will be one of them Bloggins. Six will face the challenge of handicapped children; you will all know about sickness, pain and you will face death. At all these times I submit gentlemen you will be thankful for the gospel of Christ”.
Phew! No wonder he remembered it!
I am reading a biography about President Abraham Lincoln who was a great leader and achiever. He was responsible for the abolition of slavery and winning the American civil war. It is interesting that he never hurried. In fact when he was young, he read mainly Aesop’s Fables – which he more or less memorised – and the Bible.
Lincoln had to understand everything minutely and exactly, and it took him a long time. He would slowly chew over each new fact until it was memorised. And when it was lodged in his mind, he never lost his understanding of it. He often spoke of how slowly his mind worked. His law partner said that Lincoln read less and thought more than any man in his sphere in America. I read somewhere that today we have largely traded wisdom for information, and depth for breadth. We want microwave maturity. We should study Lincoln.
Oh Dear! I Shall be Too Late!
I oversleep and have to dress in a hurry. I can’t help wondering when the voice of God will announce to me: “From henceforth thou shalt be unable to put on thine own socks?”
But we are late. We have to catch up with our schedule so we rush to the start of the walk. Hurry, hurry and hurry!
We pass two cars with drivers furiously fingering their mobiles. Another sign flashes by advertising a credit card that will take “the waiting out of wanting.” The traffic slows to a queue and I can see road rage mounting in the driver nearest us, who by the agitated workings of his face and the honking of his horn appears to be growing somewhat impatient. We walk past a garage advertising “help to move you faster”.
What sort of a state are we in? We all have to move faster and faster. What instinct encourages me to speed in my car so often? We now have systems that churn out news 24/7. It’s not as if we can do anything much about the information we are constantly absorbing. However, people are continually staring at their phones and emails at meetings, during social occasions and even in church, in case they are missing something vital. Fast food and pizza houses tell us they don’t sell just food, they sell “fast delivery”. Even shampoos and conditioners are combined to save time.
Some time ago, a survey told us that because advanced technology is taking over mundane jobs, many people will be forced to cut their working hours. So, the weeks we work each year are bound to reduce so we can retire sooner. The question is: how are people going to spend the time they are saving? Watching video games and the telly? I hear that the two phrases most used in homes in the UK today are “move over” and “what’s on?”
This is ridiculous. Why are we all in such a hurry? As the red queen in Alice and Wonderland puts it: “… it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast…!”
Hurry can destroy us and it keeps us from happiness. As Carl Jung once wrote, “Hurry is not just like the devil: hurry is the devil.”
The irony is that although our society is sated with goods, we are time-poor. Our friends in Zimbabwe are very poor indeed but rich in time. They are not driven or hurried. Hurry sickness is a continual struggle to achieve more things in less and less time, in the face of opposition real or imagined. And hurry can destroy family life. Busy people appear to have less and less time to talk to – and love – their families and their children. Charlie, a friend of mine, told me that when his bishop father died he received over 200 letters saying what a wonderful, kind, caring and gentle man his father was. Charlie told me with tears in his eyes: “He was always in a such hurry when he was with me. I did not know that man.”
It is because hurry lies behind so much of the anger and frustrations of modern living and is the great enemy of loving relationships and family life that perhaps we should take a look at how Lincoln operated – and just slow down.