for release June 22, 2001
by Melodie Davis
Slowing Down In a Culture Hooked on Speed
We were driving through Gatlinburg, Tennessee-the Niagara Falls of the South in terms of tourist kitsch-when a sign caught my eye. "Drive through wedding-$69." Some signs advertised "mountain chapel" weddings for $300-400. But a drive-through hitch up could be had for under $70.
Then I heard of a Protestant priest who conducted "no fuss, no muss" baptisms this past Easter in the Northwest. In one community, people received postcards offering an easy no-commitment baptism at the church's Saturday Easter vigil. Instead of the six weeks of classes usually required of baptism candidates, participants only had to have an hour of preparation to take part in a 2 1/2 hour service. Afterward, they were not obligated to join the parish or become a member of that particular denomination.
Before we sniff or complain about this cheap and easy religion, the priest explained that his bishop had been encouraging all of the priests to "think outside the box" in terms of attracting those who are not happy with the institutional church. So we can compliment his motive if not the exact method.
Now, in the same vein, (i.e., the motive may be right), perhaps we should praise the $69 wedding. What a huge savings over the $20,000 tab some parents run up. Maybe I'm getting old, but I think some things should not be rushed. I remember one engaged couple who planned a leisurely two-year engagement. The bride-to-be's rationale? "I just want to enjoy this stage and have us take our time. We have the rest of our lives to be married."
We are junkies for instant everything. My daughter thinks e-mail is slow and cumbersome-compared to the instant messaging she uses to communicate with us and her friends while at college. She gets jittery and impatient if she is limited to doing only one thing at a time on the computer. Her height of multitasking came one night when she calculated she was engaged in 13 separate instant messaging conversations simultaneously. Instant intimacy -- 13 friends at a time. But that's another topic, my point here is our craving for speed and where it takes us.
Think back to my opening illustration and the Great Smoky Mountains that surround Gatlinburg. These mountains have been around for eons. I won't get into the scientific debate, but I like the way the writer of Psalms 90 puts it, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. ... For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past." This is not so much about a thousand years passing in a flash, as saying the years build up in God's time to where a thousand years seem like only a day.
Unfortunately, the beauty and splendor of these ancient mountains (older than the Rockies) is threatened by their very popularity. More than 10 million visitors visit the Smokies every year. In the mad rush of profiteers to make it the hottest vacation spot, to offer more, sell more, be more profitable, and because there is no room for beltways through old mountains, the traffic flow in the Smokies is among the most congested of anywhere I've been. Drive-by vacations produce permanent smog, damaging ancient trees, rocks and waters. Officials in that area should seriously consider placing a cap on annual visitors, even if they temporarily lose a few dollars.
Perhaps this clash of cultures, the culture of "instant everything," with things that can't or shouldn't be rushed, results in one of the peculiar maladies of our time, road rage. Hooked on phones in our pocketbooks, instant messaging on the computer, drive-through hamburgers and next-day packages-when traffic jams up, we're out of control. When a slow poke in the fast lane jimmies up the freeway, we're hotter than a jalapeno in super salsa.
If you have fast forwarded your life to the point where traffic always makes you boil and waiting for an e-mail feels like waiting for the Pony Express, take a long, slow breath. Ask yourself, what is my rush? I don't want a $69 wedding. I don't want a one-time religion. I don't need a vacation to gridlock. Maybe I'll just slow down and take a day off, in the backyard. Can I stand it?
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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