The Wisdom of Pace

by | Mar 7, 2020

Core Idea:

Get off the ride, turn off your phone (or throw it into the ocean), reject the drumbeat of social media, and restore a sense of peace, pace and perspective to your life.

You’ll find the full essay below: originally a chapter in the working manuscript of my third book Blue Skyways. Although I chose not to include this essay in the final manuscript, I still like it and believe it has value, so I am posting it for you below. Be sure not to miss the lyrics to the song “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) found at the end of the essay.


The Wisdom of Pace

There is a pace to travel, a certain “hurry up and wait” sense of timing that comes from spending time on the road. I might rush to the bus station to be on time for the 10:20 bus, only to learn it left at 10:10 for reasons unknown. The next bus doesn’t come for hours.

Now I have a choice to make. I could grumble about the bus being early and how I now have to wait. Rag, rag, rag. That’s a choice…one way to respond to a circumstance.

But there is another way forward, an idea nicely captured in the title of Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. In that book, Friedman tells the story of how he was late for an appointment with a very busy colleague, one whose secretary manages his time in five minute increments.

When Friedman finally arrived (late), he apologized, but the man brushed it aside. “No,” he said. “Thank you for being late.”

Friedman was baffled, so the man explained. “You see, my time is managed so tightly, I rarely have 20 minutes just to myself,” he said. “Your lateness was actually a gift. I was able to breathe and rest for a spell.”

What a wonderful response. This busy man, whether he knew it or not, was practicing a high level of spirituality that accepts what is without judgement. He accepted where he was, in that moment, without demanding that he be anywhere else, or doing anything else, other than just resting, waiting, and breathing in that place. He was like a yoga practitioner who accepts his pose exactly as it is, not trying to strike someone else’s pose, or to live by someone else’s expectations. This is true spirituality.

I love gaining chunks of time this way. Nothing to do but wait, write in my journal, meditate, chat with a friend, sip a cappuccino, give my wet underwear more time to dry in the wind, or just watch the grass grow. Moments like those offer the opportunity to enjoy, as my Italian friend tells me, “Dolce far Niente,” that is, “The sweetness of doing nothing.”

I confess such sweetness is a foreign concept for me. I am infamous for trying to squeeze ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag. I am never bored, always busy, and historically proud of that. Once again, my ego drives me to always be accomplishing something, always be summiting, and never resting.

But when I am with my Italian friend, the difference between my pace and hers becomes starkly obvious. I realize then I am paying a high price for my ego’s demands, a price likely extracted from both my physical health and my sanity.

In the highly “accelerated” world Friedman describes in his book, everything keeps happening faster and faster, like an out of control merry-go-round, the painted ponies of current events thrashing up and down with sickening speed, the organ music spiraling upward to an infinite climax, and information coming in so fast the world outside blurs into a smear. On that ride, there is precious little room for the soul, or the “still, small voice” of God. There is, too often, no room for beauty, or nature, or talking with a child. There is no room for being late.

If that describes your world, then it’s good to get off the ride, turn off your phone (or throw it into the ocean), reject the drumbeat of social media, and restore a sense of peace, pace and perspective to your life. Travel helps you do that, but something else does too.

Growing old.


More on the Subject of Pace

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Listen to my interview with Andrew Belser, Creator and Producer of FaceAge, on how we can do better at “Reaching Across Generations” and built solutions that work for everybody.

Father and Son by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam)

I have loved this song since I first heard it in the early 70’s when I was a young buckaroo, and it still resonates with me today as an older man. I have been both a son and a father, so hear myself on both sides of the debate. Read over Yusuf’s lyrics from below while listening to the song from here. You will find tremendous wisdom there.

It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

It’s not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.
(Son– Away Away Away, I know I have to
Make this decision alone – no)

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them They know not me.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.
(Father– Stay Stay Stay, Why must you go and
Make this decision alone?)

Books by Brant

Most Recent

For Christmas 2018, my brother, a pilot with American Airlines, gave me a gift that became the experience of a lifetime: 12 months of free travel anywhere American Airlines flies.

Thus began a year long journey that took me from the rocky coasts of Portugal, to the hot sands of Morocco, to the mangrove swamps of Panama, with many places beyond and between. In cheap hostels and the backwaters of the nomadic milieu, I discovered a treasure chest of colorful and fascinating people. I tell their stories and a bit of my own.

The trip became as much a spiritual and emotional journey inward as it was a literal outward one, and found me in a place those of you who are in the second half of life are likely to recognize.

With references to the philosophies of Carl Gustav Jung, Jesus, Bob Dylan, and the Buddha, Blue Skyways is an international romp by a man in his 60’s with not much more than a pack on his back, and still much to learn.

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When a psychology doctoral student Brian Drecker uses advanced software to analyze dreams from around the world, he discovers odd patterns that cannot be explained. Where one person's dream ends, another's begins. Unique objects appear again and again...even though the dreamers are complete strangers.

Drecker discovers the patterns form a map pointing to an ancient, lost object. Soon after, he is mysteriously murdered, leading his deadbeat brother and estranged wife on an international race to find the treasure, and the murderer. Along the way, the troubled couple are opposed by dark forces of the religious underworld, who launch a global pandemic to ensure the map of dream's secret remains lost forever.

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