Yesterday, my son and I had plans to visit my sister. We arrived early and decided to go for a walk while we waited for her to arrive. My sister lives in our grandparents’ old home, meaning I’ve visited that home and neighborhood for multiple decades. Yet, I saw the neighborhood again with fresh eyes as my son and I walked through the neighborhood (I walked, he rode). We weren’t riding through the neighborhood with a distinct destination in mind, rather we were out to enjoy the day the Lord had made. Oh, how we enjoyed it!
Walking enables you to notice things you’d miss completely in the car. Maybe it’s various details about certain houses and their gardens. Maybe it’s a particular song sung by the birds on the branches. You simply don’t experience the world the same way in the seat of a car like you do walking its’ streets.
As I walked and felt the breeze, enjoyed the setting sun and enjoyed the birds’ song, a certain passage from Lewis’ Surprised by Joy came into my mind. Here’s what he wrote in the chapter titled, “Fortune’s Smile”:
I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. . . The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given to me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed, “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room.”
Our world is an extremely mobile world. Yet, have we lost something, something sacred like distance? Do we blaspheme the “infinite riches” of our specific locations by calling our space “a little room”?
On our walk this passage kept coming to mind because we would’ve missed that special time and those experiences had we not walked. The sun through the trees has a vastly different experience on foot than in a car. And, the breeze isn’t quite as subtle at 30 mph as at 3 mph.
Then, I wondered what Lewis might say about other modern technologies which proliferate the “deadly power of rushing about.” What would Lewis think about the smart phones that do in seconds what might have taken us far longer? What would Lewis think about out ever shortening our language, trying to say really important things in just a few characters? Would he feel those technologies are so good at training us to expect everything right now that we then struggle to “play the long game”? And, I wonder how many wondrous life experiences are being missed by our “rushing about”?
When I talk about Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, one of the things I feel compelled to say is Tolkein’s uncanny ability to show you every leaf of Lothlorien, or make you feel the landscape of Rohan. My first journey through the LOTR started with the feeling like, “C’mon, let’s get on with the story.” It took me time to realize how brilliant Tolkein was. His entire narrative, deluged with details, constantly reminds the reader that life can be far too easily missed if not paying attention. His narrative is almost a counter-narrative to our “rushing about.”
Now, I want to notice more leaves and clouds. I want to hear more songs of nature. While I’m not advocating for getting rid of cars and smart phones, I am suggesting maybe we really assess our lives and whether we are living it step-by-step, or seeing out of a speeding window?
May the Lord gives us the eyes to see our lives objectively, as He sees.