Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Speed of Life

Bob Dylan wrote, “Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast.” I thought this was evident when I worked for MaBell, but I’ve found that it’s even truer now that I no longer have a day job.

My neighbor Don Phillips stopped me this week to comment on one of my recent columns about retirement.

“You left something out, he said, and that’s how fast Friday comes around when you’re retired.” I smiled knowingly.

I read an obscure piece on the Internet today about a musician in the Metro subway in Washington D.C.  He was alone playing a violin while people scurried by. The music he played was flawless and yet people passed him by as if he were a fly buzzing about their busy faces.

A few children recognized the beauty of the music and tried to slow down to listen only to be hustled away by harried parents.

He played for one hour and though thousands of people passed, only a handful bothered to stop and listen. His hour’s work netted him $32.

As it turns out, this was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about people’s perception, taste and people’s priorities.

The musician was violinist Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians on the planet.

The music he played was one of the most beautiful and intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, he’d played a sold out concert in Boston where the average ticket cost $100.

What does that say about us? Now there are those who would probably say “Well, if he was playing ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ on a fiddle instead of one of them fancy violins, I’da stopped and listened.” But I’m guessing the result would have been the same.

It’s as if we’re trapped on an Interstate highway with no exit ramps, traveling at the speed of life.

We want more, bigger, better, faster, cheaper things and we want them NOW! I believe that mindset is at the root of many of the problems we face as modern Americans.

If we slow down, even for a moment, we’re afraid we’ll be eaten by wolves or even worse, that people will call us slackers or lazy.

We often measure our self worth with the stuff we have. If you don’t believe this, just go to your next high school class reunion and listen to what people talk about.

“He must be doing well, he has a condo on the beach,” or “Is that a Porsche she’s driving, where does she work?”

To me, success should be measured less by the size of the house, or the make of the car, and more by the quality of one’s relationships.

I have a nephew with a brood of kids and I’m guessing if you looked at his financial balance sheet, you’d gasp, but he and his family are among the happiest on the planet.

He works very hard, but he always finds time for his wife and kids.

I can promise you this, if he and his family passed by the musician in the subway, they would be among those who would stop and listen.

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