We live in a hurry up world. It’s a situation that may have gathered steam over 200 years ago with the invention of the railroad train, picking up the pace even more when automobiles showed up among the horse-drawn carriages. In the same century the Pony Express, the telegraph, and the telephone made it possible to communicate over long distances without actually leaving home. And then, after the turn of the century, came the airplane.

The faster you do something, the more things you can cram into your day. Here we are, one-fifth of the way through the new century, and communications with anyone, nearly anywhere on the planet, is basically possible instantaneously. We don’t have to go shopping anymore. We can do that online. Why take the time to leave the house, interact with other humans, enjoy a casual lunch somewhere, if technology makes it more convenient to live like a recluse?

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the idea of “…and I didn’t even have to leave the house.” And for some, yes, it’s a blessing due to infirmities that would otherwise make shopping trips an agony of inconvenience. There are plenty of people, old and young, whose lives are made less of a challenge by the wonders of high-tech living. And that’s a good thing.

But once the “hurry up” mentality encroaches upon one facet of living, it doesn’t stop there. It spreads to other areas of our existence, assimilates itself into our thinking…and although something is gained, something maybe more valuable is lost. The ability, even the desire, to linger over a cup of coffee or “a spot of tea,” with a friend; to hold a book or a newspaper in your hands and turn the pages, sitting in the shade of a tree or on a park bench. Simply taking the time to take your time…

I learned a lesson 42 years ago, one that I admittedly forget quite often unless someone points it out to me. The lesson is simply this: touch that wall. Allow me to explain…

I was vacationing in England in my first marriage, and had created a daily high-paced itinerary from Spot A to Spot B, and on to C and D and E as we hitchhiked our way around “…this Sceptered Isle.” After all, I had been there twice before. I knew all the “must see’s” and Janet was new to England.

On Day Two she dug in her heels at my hurry-up pace, so I took stock of the list of must see’s, eliminating several that were really too far-flung to make sense in a two week jaunt with our homemade duffel bags slung over our shoulders and our thumbs out, trying to entice rides from strangers.

Vacationing shouldn’t be a race against time, and an unscheduled stop in a centuries old tea shoppe for a cuppa with scones and clotted cream was really a bit of alright.

Among the must see’s that made the final cut was my personal favorite spot on the planet–at least as much of the planet as I have seen–Salisbury Cathedral.

This magnificent Early English Gothic Cathedral was largely built in just 38 years, beginning in 1220, with its awe-inspiring spire added to completion by 1320, and topping out at 404 feet. My first sight of it, in 1969, literally took my breath away. I remembered to breathe again when I began to wobble from forgetting to exhale. I spent the rest of that day exploring the interior of this stunning testament to faith.

Four years later I was back as a college student at Manchester University. A trio of friends and I rented a car for a four day holiday. I would have gladly held them there at the Cathedral for the rest of Day Two, but we were in a hurry trying to cover everything in a great circle that ran from Manchester to the Welsh coast and then south and east to the English coast for Dover and finally back north and west through the interior. The George Hotel in Nottingham was ancient and wonderful on our third night…Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest and all that. We probably stayed too long at the pub.

I was still trying to cram too much stuff into too little time five years later, until my wife slowed me down. We came to Salisbury in the evening, got a room in a B&B, and struck off the next morning to Stonehenge a few miles outside town on a tour bus. Another of my favorite spots. There was plenty of the day left for us to walk from the B&B to the cathedral that afternoon, so I could show off my familiarity with all the wonders inside.

As we approached the massive doors she stepped off the walkway and strolled across the sprawling green lawn to a spot within inches of the great stone exterior…and she reached out and laid her open hand against one of those perfectly cut and fitted stones, and said to me, “I wonder what the guy who put this stone here was like.”

It had never before occurred to me to touch that wall or to think about those humble laborers who, eight centuries ago had poured all of their efforts and their love and their faith into creating this most perfect expression of that faith. It was, for me,a life-changing moment.

Don’t rush through your life. Take your time. Consider all that makes up each moment, or each decision. Connect with everything you can. Don’t simply fill your time…fill your life. Make this new year one to remember. Touch that wall.

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