|Photo: Mark Robinson|
The interstate flows at a certain speed and we merge into traffic at the speed of traffic – or, at least we are supposed to. If we go too slow, we clog the flow and make it harder for people behind us to merge. If we go too fast, we force other drivers who are already on the interstate to make decisions about whether they should go on defense or not or just hope we don’t run them off the road.
Conversation is like that too. When we are receptive to each other – asking one another questions, shaking or nodding our heads in response, offering mmm-hmms or oh nos, the conversation meanders like a stream. It’s not in a hurry. Both parties feel like they are being heard and the conversation gets to where it needs to go. When it’s not natural – when there isn’t a give and take – it’s awkward, unsatisfying and we cut it short.
Nearly everything else in life is like this – appointments, walking routines, waiting in line at the movies, finding a spot in the coffee shop, romance, friendship, education, bowling. It all has a certain flow and if one of us steps out of that flow, it disrupts everyone around us.
Recently, I read a passage in a novel called The Dead Don’t Dance by Charles Martin and he says it better than I can:
The river’s got its own rhythm, and you either dance to it or you don’t. Whether you’re man or woman matters not because the river leads, and if you’re stepping out of time, then it’s your fault because the river changes its beat for no one. You want to go swimming? Go swimming. You want to sleep? Sleep. You want to fish? Fish. You want to go faster? Too bad. You want to slow down? Good luck. The river’s got one speed, and it’s not going to stop and wait on you. And unless it rains, it’s not going to hurry you along either. Amos and I made our pact with the river long ago. We built a raft, shoved off, and never complained. Rain, no rain, sun, no sun, wind, no wind, hot, cold, fast, slow, wet, dry. It really didn’t matter to us. We were just boys, happy to go wherever the river carried us. And all the river cared about was that we were going in the same direction it was and that we could swim, because it didn’t like us dying.