Frame by Frame

Early this morning I was walking home from minyan. As it happened I came to an intersection with only a few seconds left until the light would change from green to red. I had a choice. I could run across to beat the soon changing light or wait until the light would turn red and then green and then cross leisurely.  What do you think I did? What would you do? I think I did as most of us would. I ran to beat the light.

The question I asked myself later is why? Why was it so important that I get to the other side a couple of minutes earlier. The day had barely begun. I had no where I needed to be. There was nothing more waiting for me on the one side of the road than the other. True I had a destination, but the destination held nothing urgent for me.  What difference would it make if I drank my coffee at 6:55am or at 6:58am?  Yet I impulsively rushed to get across. And whose to say that if I had remained on the other side another two minutes I would not have had an encounter  more compelling than the one for which I crossed?

Truth is most of us rush through our lives to get to our destinations. Witness all the beeping car horns. Yet its also true that most of the time whether we got there sooner or later would make little difference. Its not like we have an emergency surgery to perform.  Its just that we cannot stand waiting. We perceive waiting as useless and getting there, no matter where the “there” is or why we have made it our objective,  is what matters.

The problem with our way of being is that in focusing on the destination we often miss the gifts the road has in store for us. Laozi, the great Chinese philosopher taught, “Life is short. We must go  very slowly.” On the surface that statement hardly makes sense. If life is short than you would think we should move more quickly to get things done.  But no the opposite is true,

And why? Because life is about the journey not the destination. The work of living is not getting to a series of end points until we reach the ultimate end. No, life is the journey. The journey is not the means to the ends. It is the end!  And because the journey is so short I need to move slowly to experience each moment for the gift that it affords.

It amazes how we go through so much of our life as if with blinders on. Like horses whose vision is curtailed so as to focus on the road, we are so focused on the ends that we miss precious opportunities that stand right before our eyes on the path. And even if we are fortunate enough to recognize  them, rather than live in them for the blessing they afford us, we rush right on with the ever present mantra “I’ve got no time”.

How many important rendezvous did we miss because, like me this morning, we felt compelled to get to the other side? While rushing to our appointments we may well have missed our destinies.

The work of life is to learn to go slow. We need to discipline ourselves to not rush through our journey so as to get to the other side. The process is a gift too precious to be missed.

Someone who I loved and died of cancer, told me before her death, that  the process of dying was not all bad. She said that because she was living in a different state of mind  than the rest of us she saw life as it passed her much more slowly. Instead of life being like a movie reel with whole scenes displayed in seconds, she said she saw life as if it passed frame by frame. And in seeing the individual frames life took on a singular beauty that had never been previously available to her to see.

Living life as if frame by frame, that is a wonderful image for the work before us. It is not natural to us,but if we but make effort, we will not have to wait until we are dying, when so much has already been lost, to experience it.

As for me, next time I come to am intersection I will wait to cross until I can do so without rushing! Now if I can only learn to resist my car horn !





About the Author
Yisrael Ben Yosef holds Masters degrees in both Philosophy and in Education from the University of Western Ontario. He was a former Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education. He founded and served as Director of the Jewish Institute for Pastoral Care in New York City. He has authored two books "Whence My Help Come:Caregiving in the Jewish Tradition" and "The Torah and the Self", both published by Mazo Press, Jerusalem.