It’s as counter-cultural as atlases in the age of smartphones, the embodiment of the catch-phrases of our days: “Keep busy!” “There is much to do!” “Be quick about things!” To not be hasty is not to be economically efficient; to not be hasty is not be technologically on the cutting edge. We live in times of haste, where every white space on our iCalendar must be colored in with events and every dull moment of our lives must be filled with Netflix and cat videos. We live in the era of the blur, of all things hasting together.
The exemplar of not being hasty? Tolkien once wrote of his displeasure that the “walking forest” of Shakespeare’s Macbeth turned out to be soldiers in disguise. Hence the Ent: “earthborn, old as mountains.” The shepherds of the forest: the tree alive, moving, talking. There are so few trees that do remain in the undomesticated forests about our lands, so few that might hear the song of the Elves and awake from their slumber. Yet in the eye of the tree alive dwells pools of memory, of the slow passing of time, of little haste: as Treebeard says in his wonderful way, “I used to spend a week just breathing.”
That we could spend a week merely appreciating the air flowing in and out of our lungs, as waves upon a cove of the shore! That we could pause, savor, and enjoy! As a society, we have become too hot: as a people, we have become too hasty. We little care for growing things anymore, for branch and stone and vine: like Saruman, we have developed minds of metal and wheels, and consider things not unless they serve us. In the building of our higher towers and faster processors, we have fallen guilty of Gandalf’s accusation of Isengard: “he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”
For us Lenten pilgrims, we travel through the ruins of a civilization of less haste, and there still be remnants of practices of a slower and more intentional life. There is St. Ignatius’s Examen and other prayerful practices. There are silent retreats and the slow food movement. There is the stillness of the chapel and the pause of awe and wonder when we set out to explore creation. Yet the storm of haste can easily overpower us: following our journey, even in the midst of Lent, it is so easy to fall back into old ways, to continue flowing with the pace of modern times.
And so, what can we do? We can chip away at our hasty habits; we can incorporate more pause and prayer of ancient wait into our practices. But more so, we can strive to be more Entish. We can break out from our urbanized parks and wander anew the true timbers of our lands. We can pass countless moments just breathing in the beauty, the wonder, the awe of the woods alive. We can slow down our steps of blur so that we see each tree within the forest. In not being hasty, we may laugh again at the simplest of things, and sing again in joy for all we perceive around us.