Monday, January 21, 2008

Slowing Down? Nah.

I've been thinking about what Naomi said in response to my January 15 post, Slow Down Week or Slow Down Life... "a good thought, a useful notion. but can i do it in new york city? whizzing all around me...we need a slowdown support group. . . ."

It occurs to me that I don't think there's absolute virtue in slowing down at all. To me, it's about being engaged, fully present, striving for genuine contentment.

I thought about you, Naomi, living in New York and I felt a twinge of envy. There's no place else I'd rather be than in New York. It's where I feel most alive, fully engaged, most like myself, comfortable in my own skin.

Ultimately, for me, the essence of Slow Down is an awareness of self - of what makes me right in my own skin. Awareness of what I am doing, with my time, my activities, my life.

It's not about speed or altering one's personal tempo, but attention, engagement, happiness wherever we are, lazing in a hammock or scurrying about the city.

As usual, a poem comes to mind, this one by Philip Appleman. To me, it's always a little bit like Spring in New York City.

Nobody Dies in the Spring

Nobody dies in the spring
on the Upper West Side:
nobody dies.
On the Upper West Side

we're holding hands with strangers
on the Number 5 bus,
and we're singing the sweet
graffiti on the subway,
and kids are skipping patterns through
the bright haze of incinerators,
and beagles and poodles are making a happy
ruin of the sidewalks,
and hot-dog men are racing
their pushcarts down Riverside Drive,
and Con Ed is tearing up Broadway
from Times Square to the Bronx,
and the world is a morning miracle
of sirens and horns and jackhammers
and Baskin-Robbins' 31 kinds of litter
and sausages at Zabar's floating
overhead like blimps--oh,
it is no place for dying, not
on the Upper West Side, in springtime.

There will be a time
for the smell of burning leaves at Barnard,
for milkweed winging silky over Grant's Tomb,
for apples falling to grass in Needle Park;
but not in all this fresh new golden
smog: now there is something
breaking loose in people's chests,
something that makes butchers and bus boys
and our neighborhood narcs and muggers
go whistling in the streets--now
there is something with goat feet out there, not
waiting for the WALK light, piping
life into West End window-boxes,
pollinating weeds around
condemned residential hotels,
and prancing along at the head
of every elbowing crowd on the West Side,
Follow me-- it's spring--
and nobody dies.

"Nobody Dies in the Spring," by Philip Appleman, from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996. © University of Arkansas Press.

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