The other day, while traversing a zebra crossing at a leisurely pace, a car almost ran over me.
‘Come on boyo, hurry up, will you? This isn’t a park!’ shouted the driver.
Indeed! My foot had barely touched the pavement when the car vroom-vroomed, rushing past me at great speed, brushing my back ever so slightly with its rearview mirror. Picture me, short and frail as I am, coughing on the pavement in the cloud of exhaust smoke he left behind, watching the hectic rush of cars racing down the boulevard, bemoaning the hastiness of our beloved century.
‘Where are all these people rushing to?’ I wondered, taking off my hat and scratching my head. ‘To death?’
Now similar scenes happen to me almost every week. Lovable young women driving candy-colored cars peer through their windows at me as I cross the zebra, pouting their ruby or pink lips and shouting,
‘Come on! Hurry up!’
Why? Wherefore? To what purpose? Alas, people, we are all dying. We must slow down, we must enjoy every step we make, every breath of air that fills our lungs. We must observe our surroundings, we must pay attention to the details. This is how we can ameliorate our collective indifference, our consumerism and greed, our self-importance.
If there’s a problem with technology – smartphones, tablets, cars, computers, social media, airplanes, and everything else included – is that it’s too fast and only getting faster. I adore my notebook and e-book reader and am thankful to them for the things they let me do, but whenever I use them it’s as if time speeds up and up and up, until it gets out of my control. Then it’s as if technology supplants my awareness.
My awareness of now, of the present moment, becomes dimmer and dimmer, until sometimes I lose it entirely, only to wake up minutes or even hours later with my work done yet somehow unfulfilled, somehow startled, as if time has pulled a fast one on me, cheating of me moments, minutes, hours of awareness that were rightfully mine.
Still, quiting technology is out of the question. As much as I would like to relocate to a remote cottage in the mountains, far away from the technological temptations of our speedy age, I know that at my young age – 23 – the move would be a step back, a cultural regress. I would lose access to knowledge and become narrower in my focus and aspirations. Maybe later, when I am older, I will move to such a cottage (if I will acquire the means). For now I am pleased to announce I will stay here with you.
However, that doesn’t have to mean that people like us, who (I hope) are concerned with deeper things than money, status, and sex, must drown in the technological flood. Even in our bustling cities we can still walk or cycle instead of driving, we can stop playing games on our smartphones in the bus and instead observe the moving pictures in the window, we can cook our own food rather than buy it ready made, we can handwrite a bit every day instead of only typing, we can do everything more slowly, with a greater awareness, to enjoy the little things more and prolong our life so to speak.
Next time I cross the street, I will go slowly. And if perchance some pretty girl in a candy-colored car honks honks and shouts at me to hurry up, I’ll smile at her and slow down even more. If she runs me down, I won’t mind, I really won’t…
Dear pedestrian, do you have any zebra crossing experiences you’d like to share with us?