Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Slow Down Cowboy

Dear Henry,
       A funny thing happened on the way to the mountains. There I was, in the early hours of a gorgeous Rocky Mountain Wednesday morning. I was leading a group of eight incredible college students from New York on a spring break trip to Colorado, and on this particular morning on this particular day  we were driving to the mountains for a two day ski trip.  Everything was going as planned until about twenty minutes into our journey. As I was cruising at 65 MPH in the left lane, soaring like a speedy Zebra coasting across a Zimbabwe Safari, I suddenly noticed a sea of red break lights ahead. A few minutes later I noticed everyone was switching lanes, getting out of that left lane, because there was an accident there. "Oh great," thought I. Now I'm going to need to do a fancy maneuver they taught me in driving school fourteen years ago to be able to switch into the center lane with this massive van I am driving. I immediately signaled to switch lanes, and then something more unexpected than the series finale to The OC happened: the guy let me in. The dude let me switch lanes, and he didn't even creep up and pretend he wasn't going to let me in like they do in New York. He just stopped his vehicle and waved me in. 
       My mouth literally dropped. I couldn't believe it . Here was a driver driving to work in rush hour traffic; presumably he had somewhere important to be. And yet, some how, some way, he wholeheartedly let me go in front of him, with no hesitation whatsoever. I truly couldn't believe it. I woke up the unsuspecting sleeping passenger next to me to alert her what was going on. 
     This experience, and driving through Colorado, a state in which drivers egregiously go under the speed limit in the left lane, taught me the very important life lesson to SLOW DOWN, and I believe it is critical to do so for three reasons. Firstly, we need to slow down to constantly evaluate and confirm that we are going down the appropriate path. Many of us are programmed from kindergarten that we need to go to school to learn how to be a lawyer or doctor, or accountant,  and then do this profession to make money, and then to make money to be able to retire and go on vacation. But do we necessarily know to pause, and ask ourselves a) if we are happy in the profession we are pursuing and b) what's the point of it all? Do we ever pause and try to figure out how to be in a loving relationship or how to be a good parent? In life, we need to slow down, to pause, and reflect. In Judaism we have an opportunity to do so once a week every week: we have Shabbos, a sabbath in which we put everything away to reflect on what is truly important, and to take stock of our lives.
      The other reason a person should slow down is that when he goes to fast, many times he loses his rationality and ability to make wise decisions. For example, when a driver on the East Coast decides he's not letting someone in front of him in, and he wrecklessly tails the car in front of him, he is endangering himself and everyone else on the road. When a businessman in Manhattan is walking 20 MPH to get to his meeting on time, body checking the unsuspecting photo-snapping tourist in the mean time, he is not thinking so rationally. The Talmud teaches that a person should be "slow to judgement." If I am adjudicating a case I shouldn't come up with any rash verdicts; I am enjoined to methodically understand each side, and take my time before issuing a ruling. Life is complex, we need to slow down and use our brains. Today, in this high strung world, where technology allows us to find out everything we want in an instant, this wisdom is more applicable than ever. I remember one time I was sent a rather annoying email, and from my fake I-phone I was preparing an instant response. Luckily I took a deep breath, and slept on it, and in the end did not send the email that I would have surely regretted having sent.
      Finally, we all need to take a deep breath, and slow down, so that we can enjoy, and bask in the beautiful world that G-d has given us. I remember one time walking to work in the streets of Manhattan, and I looked up above the storefronts to see all of these incredible skyscrapers--wondrously crafted, stunning buildings. I said to myself, Dan-o, that's crazy. You have been walking past these same buildings every single day, and yet you never once noticed that there was something beyond the restaurants and storefronts on the street level. Once I slowed down and looked up, I realized there was a whole new world beyond what I ever stopped to recognize. Last Friday night, as the rabbi was saying Kiddush, I couldn't get over the gorgeous deep blue sky in the background. I recall thinking I never recall having seen such a shade of blue before. In life, many times we are too busy and running around like chickens with our heads cut off; totally oblivious to the wondrous world in which we live. What good is the beauty if it goes unnoticed, unappreciated?
      Granted, somethings in life you might want to just "speed through," to get it over with, like a routine visit to the dentist office, or the New York Jets season. But life is not one of those things.  It is too short to run through with our head down as quickly as we can. Life is beautiful, so, as we say out West, "Slow down, Cowboy!"

Danny Wolfe

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