Thursday, July 14, 2011

Changing pace…

I almost did something really stupid the other day. I didn’t mean to, but once it happened I thought, “Whoa! That could’ve gone horribly.” I was merging onto I-494 from Highway 100, had completed the exit’s cloverleaf loop and sped up to join traffic. Of course, there’s a long entry ramp at that point, about a mile of two separate lanes before you enter the interstate proper. Although, just before that happens, the ramp condenses to one lane.

Which meant my path was about to be blocked by a slow moving, huge truck in the right hand lane. Decision time, right? Speed up to pass the truck, or slow waaaaaaay down and get in line (and by slow, I mean it crawled long at like 35 mph, on a highway, seriously!). I quickly calculated the distance between my car and the truck, judged I could get out in front easily, then hit the gas. I judged wrong. The space remaining for me to pass was smaller than I’d guessed. But I didn’t realize that until the truck nearly collided with my passenger side. Heart racing, knowing I had no choice but to see this through, I rammed the pedal to the floor, swerved a bit and prayed.

We didn’t crash; hallelujah; no harm, no foul. But my heart kept pounding loudly, declaring, “Shane, you idiot, too close.” But praise God for quick acceleration! And one big Grrrrrrr to the truck who treated an on-ramp like a school zone.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the pace of change in our lives, and especially how that pace changes. A chat with one of you made me ponder change in the church, how fast is too fast, how slow is dangerous. An article on modern robotics lured me into daydreaming of a personal machine that will someday fold my laundry. A book I just finished (Why the West Rules…For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future by Ian Morris; stunning, epic, and weighty; don’t agree with everything, but it was well worth my time) analyzes the slow march of civilization through human history. And by slow, I mean that during the 100,000 years or so of our species, our social development, energy use, population and information sharing changed, often increased, but not very quickly. Until this last century, that is, when the pace of change changed. Or rather, exploded, beyond the ancients wildest nightmares. And as we learn more, invent and discover more, acceleration may continue…

More than one of you have expressed to me anxiety at the pace of cultural change; our most aged, wise friends having seen more lifestyle transformations in their lifetimes than any previous generation, ever. Nowadays, it feels like the world around us transforms almost biannually. And some worry we’ve accelerated fast enough to hit ‘the truck’ with devastating power, but not enough to avoid it. Certainly, in the modern world, hitting the brakes seems no longer an option.

Back in the day, religious folk assumed God or the gods controlled everything; that all sovereignty on earth was divine, and no sparrow (let alone person) could fly without Heaven’s tacit assistance. Many in this much-changed world no longer believe that, myself included. God set the rules, I suspect, but always works within them. But the ancients, though they claimed the Hand of God at work where laws of gravity or climate patterns were more appropriate, still discerned something indispensible about divine reality. In the Hebrew Bible, one name for God is “Ancient of Days,” and other religions used the same or similar appellations. The idea seems obvious; divine reality is eternal; more everlasting, in fact, than the process of change human ingenuity drives today, more everlasting even than our ever-changing ideas about God or the gods.

I find that comforting, knowing that even if our judgment fails us, if we drive too fast for our own good, or hit the brakes prematurely, the force that created and sustains this world will abide. That’s comforting, because I believe that Force’s truest name is Love. What was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

Grace and Peace,
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