Every morning, an elderly oriental woman shuffles by my house. Keeping time with her own internal beat, she makes her way with great determination and the help of a cane. She is 100 years old, so the neighbors say, and like the great workings inside an ancient clock, her cogs click in perfect, calculated succession to keep her in motion. If one cog fails, the whole machine shuts down.
Today, as I watch her from my front porch, I wait in anticipation of a small marvel. Over the last several months, she’s incorporated me into her morning routine. Halfway past my house, she turns to look for me and waves an exuberant hello. Like a delightful wood-carved cuckoo popping from its door when the big hand strikes 12, my ancient passerby interrupts her persistent pace and gifts me with a smile. And then, without missing a beat, she disappears and continues on her way.
With the exception of this brief display, I envision her day as a succession of gentle movements where one activity flows into the next. As night makes its arrival, she will flow into a steady rhythm of slumber. When day returns, she will flow again into motion. She reminds me of the underlying calm of life–the steady beat of quiet wisdom that keeps us balanced and at peace.
Not too far behind her today are a father and child being yanked down the walkway by a pair of floppy-eared dogs. The dogs are dogs, but the humans are crude and chaotic in their movement. They are consumed in themselves, unaware of me, unaware of their surroundings. They clamor in conversation, speaking over and at each other. They are awkward, tripping along, their cogs misaligned. Watching the malfunctioning mass going by, it strikes me; I can’t help but notice how much our species has devolved.
Just moments after exchanging quiet smiles with my gentle, ancient traveler, I am filled with concern for her safety. Soon the clunky inertia of this clod and clone and two critters will be upon her. Will she be allowed to maintain her quiet, calculated pace? Will this new-world, fast-moving duo disrupt her flow or run her down? Will they even see her there?
I see the contrast before me of ancient wisdom and new world selfism and I am concerned–for her and for us all. Have we, as individuals, become useless cogs in our society? Are we shaped so differently in our self-absorption that we no longer fit together as a community? Whether we have evolved or devolved can probably be argued, but I do feel like something has changed. As for me, I hope life will always include quiet, gentle moments where an ancient soul can still delight me with a smile.