The Ocean Can Wait
This April the first direct high-speed train will begin service between the cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Paris, cutting the running time of that route from 15 to 9 hours! This speeding bullet train, racing at high velocity through the stunning beauty of French and Spanish countryside, is a symbol of us!
We conscientiously strive to avoid contracting dangerous germs yet seem oblivious to a perilous virus: Hurrying! Our passion for speeding ever faster and faster is not restricted simply to travel or Web connections. The deadly virus of rushing infects every aspect of our lives—we hurry off to work or play, we eat in a hurry, we speed read, we speak rapidly and we depart with hasty half-goodbyes. Symptoms of this life-crippling disease are aggravated irritability in a traffic stoppage, angry hostility at our sluggish computer or tech gadgets and the sensation of being suffocated when ensnared in sluggish gatherings and extended time-consuming telephone calls.
Hurry is a notorious thief. It secretly robs us our enjoyment of life, the sensual pleasures of eating, the camaraderie of friendships and life’s beauties when in the midst of them we only watch our watch. It doesn’t have to be that way, as Helen Keller reported about how Samuel Clements (Mark Twain) lived his life. Blind and deaf since she was 18 months old, Helen by sheer determination and with the help of her teacher Annie Sullivan learned to know what people were saying by placing her fingers on their lips or throat. She greatly admired Mark Twain, and in 1909 she and Annie were dinner guests at his home in Stormfield, Connecticut.
During their visit, the 58-year-old Twain never once talked down to Helen or treated her other than as a fully capable, educated woman. In his typical flamboyant style he entertained the two women leisurely at a delightful dinner. Helen wanted to leave when it was over so as not to impose any longer on him, but Twain, eager for the evening to continue, ushered the two women into his book-lined, tobacco-fragranced study to continue their visiting around his fireplace. Helen recalled that evening and her “sensed impression” of Mark Twain: “He seemed to have absorbed all America into himself. The great Mississippi River seemed forever flowing through his speech…. His voice seemed to say, like the river, ‘Why hurry? Eternity is long; the ocean can wait.’”
“Times have changed,” you will say, “that was over a hundred years ago when life was unhurried!” Indeed times do change, but the enjoyment of the richness of life that makes us fully human does not! So when twitching from the addiction to hurry, remember Mark Twain and how he lived out the ageless wisdom of the leisurely flowing Mississippi River, “Why hurry? Eternity is long; the ocean can wait.”