Thursday, March 4, 2010

I've been everywhere, Man

Larry McMurtry, the author of Lonesome Dove, also once wrote a book about all the roads he had explored in this vast country of America. At the end of the book he returns via memory to the little spot in East Texas where he had grown up. McMurtry realizes that in contrast to his own travels, his father had rarely travelled farther than the few dirt roads near his farm. Far from thinking his father less accomplished, McMurtry admits with great respect, “I have looked at many places quickly. My father looked at one place deeply.” (Thanks to Leighton Ford and his book The Attentive Life for this story)

Most of us are probably more like the younger of the McMurtrys than the older. After all, we live in a world of quick glances. Oh, we may not all be turning over our car’s odometer, but thanks to the internet, most of us travel to the ends of the earth almost every day. We drop in on a distant acquaintance via Facebook, comment on how cute their kids are, and then quickly move on. We hear about a massive earthquake in Chile and pull up that country’s article on Wikipedia discovering that it is one of South America’s most prosperous nations. We catch the days’ headlines through 140 character snippets on Twitter and consider ourselves informed. We flit and we fly; we hardly ever land.

Don’t get me wrong, the opportunities provided by this greater access to knowledge and information are tremendous. But there is an insidious temptation, nonetheless, the temptation to think that all things in life can be learned or experienced through quick glances. The world may have changed tremendously, but some things remain the same. The knowledge of self, of another person, of a people, of God, these things require slow, deep looks. The question remains, though, does our travel happy world even remember how to sit still long enough to truly know? An even better question, do I?

Be still, and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

Texas version of the song in honor of yesterday's Texas Independence Day. Enjoy.

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