Issue # 24
September 8, 2000
Be Still
By Rich Wilhelm

I am not one to give unsolicited advice. Well, that's a lie, now isn't it? I have been known to give advice now and then, but these days, I try not to give it until someone actually asks for it because I've come to suspect that I often give advice just to hear myself talk.

However, there are two words that I think everyone living in these times should hear and think about, and those words are "Be still."

Life moves at a formidable pace these days. Everybody wants everything yesterday. In many ways, this is actually a good thing. Technology is great, and hopefully as time goes by, we'll see it increasingly used to create wonderful opportunities for everyone. I certainly would never suggest that a full retreat from technology is necessary.

However, it seems to me that something valuable is being lost in the mad rush of our society, and that is the opportunity for an individual to just be still. We all need moments to step back from this modern life and just "be."

This is certainly not an original idea of mine. In the Book of Psalms it is written, "Be still, and know that I am God." More recently, T.S. Eliot (who apparently wasn't such a nice guy, but he did have a few good ideas) seemed to be addressing the problem of stillness and progress when he wrote, "We must be still and still moving." One of my all-time favorite bands, Los Lobos, wrote a song called "Be Still," and Willie Nelson echoed Eliot's sentiment with a song called "Still is Still Moving to Me." I think what Nelson's trying to say in his song is that even when we're still, we're progressing on our journey through life. Willie, if you're reading this and I've misinterpreted you, please let me know.

I have friends who seem to understand the concept of "Be Still." Kevin sent me a homemade CD compilation called "Be Still" that contains over an hour of his favorite quiet classical pieces. Eric made me a tape very similar to Kevin's CD.

Apparently, there are certain small towns in Italy that understand also. These towns have been designated "slow towns," and symbols of our rush-rush culture, like fast food restaurants, simply aren't allowed.

I think I have a fairly good grasp on being still, but sometimes I have to be laid low before I truly appreciate the idea. Last night for example, I had one of the Really Bad Headaches I occasionally get. I suppose it was a migraine. If not, then I don't ever want to get a true migraine. I still had it when I woke up this morning, so I stayed home and made a doctor's appointment.

The walk to the doctor's (the office is only three blocks away from my house) gave me a perfect few minutes to "be still." It was a cool, clear morning. The songs of birds mingled with the echoes of Thelonious Monk playing gentle solo piano renditions of his compositions, "'Round Midnight" and "Ruby, My Dear," in my head. I walked slowly, taking in the neighborhood scenery. While the headache wasn't quite gone when I reached the doctor's office, I did feel better just for having the chance to slow down a little bit.

I know it's difficult today, but I would encourage everyone reading this to try to find the time and space you need to be still. I think the world would be a just-slightly-better place if each of us could find a place for stillness.

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print a hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2000 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)