by Father Mark Goldasich
“Slow down, you move too fast.”
I sing this line from Simon & Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” quite often. It’s become a sort of mantra as I navigate this hurry-up world.
Things were different in the summers when I was growing up and air-conditioning was not that common. I experienced firsthand the “dog days” of summer, traditionally from July 3 to Aug. 11.
The term originates from olden times when the hottest part of the year occurred when Sirius, known as the Dog Star, rose before the sun. The ancients saw this as a time of heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs and bad luck. Nature’s heat made sure that we had no choice but to slow down.
Fast-forward to today, and everything has changed. Summer is as busy — if not more so — than the school year. I don’t know how parents can keep straight — let alone keep up with — all the activities their kids are engaged in, from sports and camps to swimming and sleepovers.
Even vacations are rarely so, with so many folks checking work emails while “away” or posting their every adventure or meal to social media. And when they do return home, the tasks have so piled up that they work doubly hard just to catch up!
We need to be reminded often of Simon & Garfunkel’s words. When I lived in Rome for almost six years, I was convinced that the Italians “got it.” The entire city shut down for several hours in the afternoon so people could enjoy a leisurely “pranzo,” have a glass of wine with that meal and take a siesta.
They also exemplified the attitude that anything worth doing was worth doing “domani” (“tomorrow”). Romans didn’t stress out about deadlines.
In addition to my “slow down” mantra, I rely on another saying to keep me grounded. It comes from Father Greg Boyle’s book “Barking to the Choir” where he suggests the words: “Now. Here. This.” That is to say, “Listen here and now and only to the person in front of you.” It also means: Do here and now only the task in front of you.
It’s amazing how slowing down helps us to truly live life, to be attentive to what’s there around us. You’ll find yourself savoring the food you eat, the feel of a cool breeze, the smell of freshly mown grass, the sound of the carefree laughter of children and the colorful sight of a Kansas sunset.
If you need a bit of help escaping the breakneck speed of life, ponder this portion of an inspiring poem by Wilfred Arlan Peterson, entitled “Slow Me Down, Lord”:
“Slow me down, Lord./ Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind./ Steady my hurried pace. Give me,/ amidst the day’s confusion,/ the calm- ness of the everlasting hills. . . .
“Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep./ Teach me the art/ of taking minute vacations . . . / slowing down to look at a flower,/ to chat with a friend, / to read a few lines from a good book.
“Remind me/ of the fable of the hare and the tortoise;/ that the race is not always to the swift;/ that there is more to life than mea- suring its speed.”
Slow down, and in no time, I’ll bet you’ll be feelin’ groovy.