Monday’s Meditation: On The Pace Of Life & The Peace Of Life
It is both what makes America great and miserable: the hustle. The drive. The unrelenting devotion to ambition.
And then you hop a few flights and land yourself in a place where no one seems intent on learning to become a morning person. There is no observable worship here of improvement—earlier, faster, fitter, better.
At first the slowness is jarring—frustrating even. Why is it that no one seems to be on the ball? Why does it take so long to bring a second course? Why does no one ever seem to be leaving anywhere?? Only sitting, and sitting longer, and chatting more?
But you, the outsider, the overeager beaver in a sea of seals, gradually acquiesce to the pace.
Weird, you think. Charming. How quaint that the Greeks rise at mid-morning, and are still bidding each other good morning at 12:30.
You wander into an impossibly picturesque beach-side café around then and are the first and only customer there. The deliveries for the day are still being made as you scan the menu. The arrival of each one prompts an earnestly cheerful kalimera! from the owner.
You suddenly remember all the times salespeople, customer service representatives and cashiers have wished you a good afternoon at 10:30AM, and a good evening at 3:00PM.
When you ask the man taking your order what, exactly, constitutes a frappe, he offers to give you a lesson, and ushers you back into the kitchen. And as he demonstrates the Nescafe-to-water ratio, shows you the frothing tool, and how the mixture puffs up like caffeinated magic, it occurs to you that the discernible difference has much less to do with speed than it does with focus.
It is not that your barista moves purposefully fast or slow, but that his pace reveals a centeredness in the moment. You have the sense that for him, there is only the matter of the frappe currently being executed. The interaction being had right then.
Later, there will be dinner and laughter and many more cigarettes. But later. Not now.
You observe fisherman and hotel drivers and shop owners and nondescript members of society just going about their business, and think how much they look like they’re living for the day; enjoying its unfolding.
You notice hard work and hustle, alike. But see, too, how those things seem not to be granted the power to overshadow contentment with the current circumstances.
What is emphasized is not a prescribed pace of any sort, but a permission to derive pleasure from the present.
You think to bottle up that allowance, to uncork it often upon your return. You think to remind your fellow countrymen on a day celebrating the great nation, a nation so skilled at building for tomorrow, that it’s worth noting how good it is right now.
That wherever they are on their journey is a fine place to savor.
That they are not behind their own life schedule. That the hour they rise does not determine the goodness of their soul.
That somewhere, on the pristine beach of an island in the Aegean Sea, there is a man teaching tourists the art of the frappe, and this man seems unconcerned with how much he does, or at what hour it occurs, but how well, or, how much out of pleasure. Whose very existence proves there is no right way, nor one definition of peace, nor of contentment. And that’s the crux of it.
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