Sometimes I recognize myself in those hardy souls who board watercraft at the beach, because like them, I feel the need for speed.
When I was a young girl, I raced my bike down the steep hill where we lived, and in the wintertime, sled with equal velocity.
I remember the first time I flew on a plane and the adrenaline rush I felt when I hurled through space and ascended into the heavens. “Houston, we have ignition.”
After driving sensible, nondescript, used cars for most of my life, I bought a new blue Crossfire, a sports car with a powerful German engine. My friends and colleagues were amazed with my choice of a muscle car. I told them simply that this was the real me.
While I never break the sound barrier or the posted speed limit, I have no reservations about accelerating from zero to sixty in a heartbeat, then clicking on cruise control. I also enjoy hugging the curves in the road.
Consequently, I identify with my counterparts at Fogland who crave recreational life in the fast lane. They crank up their outboard motors and careen over open waters with a look of sheer delight on their faces. They fly like the wind into the wild blue yonder, hanging onto their sailboats and catamarans for dear life. They windsurf at breakneck speed.
While walking toward the salt marsh, I watched two men in wet suits approach the cove on their jet ski. Carrying equipment to shore, they prepared the chute for parasail waterskiing.
Returning to their jet ski, they sped to the center of the bay, pulling the airborne balloon behind them.
Then, one of the adventurers drove while the other waterskied. Back and forth they zigzagged across the Sakonnet River with the chute mapping their coordinates.
My heart was racing along with theirs.
Sitting on a stone at the shore, I also noticed a herring gull hovering overhead. New England’s most common seagull, the white bird with its silver back and wings floated gracefully, buoyed by its four-feet-ten-inch wingspan, then suddenly it dived headlong through the air and into the water.
It got me thinking.
While I spend time in prayer and meditation barely moving a muscle, I have an alter ego that yearns to propel me out of my comfort zone. And when I acknowledge it, I feel the heart-pumping excitement of the great gift of being alive.
I like the phrase “contemplative in action.” The Rev. James Martin writes in “The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life” that St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, counseled his followers that they were always to carve out time for prayer but were expected to live active lives as well.
“Most of us lead busy lives with little time for prayer and meditation. But by being aware of the world around us – in the midst of our activity – we can allow a contemplative stance to inform our actions,” writes Father Martin. “Instead of seeing the spiritual life as one that can exist only if it is enclosed by the walls of a monastery, Ignatius asks you to see the world as your monastery.”
The way to jump-start that awareness is to seek God in all things, even when you’re travelling at hyper speed.