Friday, April 17, 2009

The Play Day

It was a typical early spring London afternoon, damp, occasional sprinkles, low overhanging clouds.  I'm here in London enjoying a couple of weeks playing "Granny" to three year old and 1 1/2 year old grandsons.  We had been joined for the day by their cousins, two girls, aged 8 and 5 and they had all played together quite well most of the day.  But now the littlest one was up from his nap, and a long, unplanned afternoon spread out before us.  The natives, i.e., the children, were definitely restless.  They had creatively managed to entertain themselves until now, but any parent can guess at what was going to happen if the adults didn't take action.

There's a large outdoor park with a well equipped recreation center nearby with scheduled activities for children.  We loaded the boys and the oldest niece into the car and headed over there, and "queued" up (I'm learning British English as fast a possible), to get tickets for the next Kid's House of Fun hour.  About 15 minutes later, we headed toward a room with the largest bounce house I've ever seen.  Three stories tall, with at least a 900 sq. ft footprint, it was clearly a child's paradise.  For about 20 minutes, that is exactly what it was.  Even the baby was having a marvelous time exploring and falling and jumping and climbing and hiding--a delight. 

And then . . . two larger groups entered, probably birthday parties, most of the children between 6 and 11 years old.  I watched in fascination as these exuberant children, also restive from a long day inside (it is a school holiday here), did what comes naturally to all children, and started racing through the tunnels and down the slides, bumping one another, knocking each other over, and running faster, faster, faster.  After a while, I felt like I was watching a movie with speeded up motion as they raced by my watchful chair in hyper-speed, screaming louder with each pass, heedless who they trampled in the rush to get . . . nowhere.  It was just a large maze, and all eventually ended at the same place, exactly where they started.  

The rush to get nowhere--how typical of so much of human activity.  Rush, rush, rush, hurry here, make that deadline there, don't be late because something bad will happen, quicker, faster, speedier--GET THERE NOW BECAUSE IT HAS TO BE DONE THIS MINUTE OR  . . .!!!!  

Or what?  What if it doesn't get done?  Well, frankly, sometimes it is pretty darn serious if it doesn't get done.  Silly to pretend otherwise--some parts of life must be met head on with speed and expertise.  But there is a franticness to much of our lives that insists if something can be done faster, then it should be done faster.  There are times, however, when our lives are so much like than House of Fun maze that doing it faster only means getting back to where we began, and when we get there, we are tired, sweaty, and pretty unsatisfied.  

The movement for "slow" seems to be growing (we would like to think slowly, of course.)  Slow food, not only cooked slowly with love and care, but also eaten slowly with appreciation and real appetite, has become quite a trend (which, I suppose by the nature of trends, means it is catching on with increasing rapidity).  There's a fascinating bit of research emerging showing that super-slow exercising may create far more strength and endurance than the normal higher speed routines.  The best athletes are taught to work through their moves in very slow motion as they train their muscles to respond to changing circumstances.

Then there is my area of expertise: the growth into spiritual maturity.  This growth simply cannot be rushed.  Shortcuts mean lingering and ultimately destructive immature attitudes. It takes a long, long time for the purity of heart and soul and mind and body to work their way as the predominant way of being.  That path toward spiritual maturity is started best in the earliest of childhood moments.  Of the things I've seen since this short trip to England began, it is that need to start early that frightens me the most.  Because they are not starting at all over here.  And it is showing up in some pretty horrific ways with the teens and young adults.

More later on this.

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