My van is still in the shop so I'm walking and busing it these days. One of the advantages of living downtown though is that walking places isn't a hardship. So today I set out to meet a student for lunch and then putzed my way back, stopping for a latte at the Round Street Cafe. As I noticed things I don't normally notice when I'm driving I was mindful of something Daniel Taylor wrote about walking on the island of Iona: "Walking is the maximum desirable speed for seeing things fully enough to name them. And when we name things then we begin to value them. No wonder that we all want to be named and known." Our technology has a way of distancing us from our environment. In the van not only am I separated from the weather, sounds, and smells of the city, but I'm too caught up in paying attention to other vehicles and lights to pay any attention to houses, pedestrians, flowers or anything else for that matter.
I remember reading something about how train travel changed publishing. When people traveled by carriage they were going slowly enough that they could pay attention to what was around them. But when they started to take the train they went too quickly and were removed from what was around them so they started to read on the train. So there were all sorts of magazines and penny novels produced for this new market.
Sr. Helen Prejean writes in the beginning of Dead Man Walking that not having air conditioning in New Orleans means that you have to move slow in the heat and humidity. Wendell Berry chooses to only write by natural light so he can only write during the day time. There have been a number of things written lately about stress and how the fact that technology allows us to work around the clock has been really hard on us.
It will make life a lot more convenient when I have my van back but there are things to be learned from an enforced slowing down.