light at road's endI am bombing and careening down the mountain side. I am plunging like a pelican, eyeballing through the misty sky his underwater prey. My face is fraught with the force of gees, pulled upwards in a ghastly clown like smile as I catapult down the roaded ravine: Divine Intervention keeps me from plunging over the side and disappearing into the crack of this world. Part exaltation, part terror; it is my daily dose of Speed.

I try to awaken within this conundrum: Is my life too slow? Am I going too fast? It’s a race no one will win.

Why do we speed? If I were Woody Allen, I’d say “To escape death.” Why, on the other hand, do we sometimes not move at all? “To escape death,” Woody might say again. I wax quixotic. I will try to solve the puzzle.

Speeders, runners, race car drivers, skaters, boarders, bicyclists, bungee jumpers, downhill skiers, parachutists, cigarette boaters, water skiers, wing suiters, – all are lovers of speed. Speed is a drug they say, an adrenaline rush through the unknown quantum, a measure of motion not acceptably taken. I do not use drugs. Perhaps I should. The whole drug thing flew by me when, at twelve, I opened the medicine cabinet in my parents’ bathroom, surveyed the goodies, and told myself “Nah. I’d never get off that road, so I better not go down it,” and closed it up again.

Only to see myself in the mirror – aye, there’s the rub. We speed to avoid our own reflection, we speed to leave our bodies and faces behind, we speed to unwind, to be free, to be wind, to release ourselves from the double whammy that is the lock down of our embodied spirits, ramming down the highways with millions of other embodied spirits wrapped in these grosser metallic overcoats, perched on rubber matter wheels. One metal coat and one flesh coat, we speed double wrapped and we will die anyway, trying to shed the covers. Ah, to speed is to feel the spirit in the flesh release, to speed is to be beside ourselves. Because frankly, who wants to be within us?

Well, we would, wouldn’t we? Isn’t that why we planted our spirit selves onto earthly ground and donned these outer trappings? Isn’t that why we latched onto that speck with a tail, crawled into the egg, and made our way through the first dark passage? But births have changed now, haven’t they? Little by little, the idea of birth through the actual canal is being slowly eradicated. C-sections are all the rage – “it’s easier on the baby,” they say, and the mother and everyone else. And it’s faster.

I was recently sitting in a visual tone meeting on a Hollywood TV set, where the creative think tank on the show ran movie clips to determine how they wanted that episode, which included a birth, to look. The clip featured a brutal C-section in progress. The doctor made the cut, scooped the mother-to-be’s innards into a large plastic condom and with one hand hauled the baby out by the neck and bottom, out of the cut in the belly and womb. A collective “yoh-oooh!” rose in the room. Everyone rattled and yammered over the clip, vocally speeding past a fresh and bloody road wreck playing out in fast-mo. One woman said “I had a C-section”, another said “So did my wife,” and another jokingly offered “I sat in the C-section of the Greek Theater, and I thought that was bad!” It was so gory that everyone asked the clip runner to fast forward through the birth, and then, yes, we sped through as if the baby being brutally born were chasing us, all gooey and gore, down the mountain to our deaths. The mother’s guts were shoveled back in, the baby cleaned off in a flash, and finally, wrapped and swaddled and delivered all perfect to the mother’s breast, they speed-stitched her back up. Speed reading, speed skating, speed dating, fast food, faster cars. When are we supposed to, when are we allowed to – slow down? And why does this question remind me of my niece, now almost 13.

Years ago on a summer in Nantucket, my family was dining all together at a little Cafe. I asked my then same 6 year old niece if she remembered where she was before she was born. She told me she was up in heaven with God and one other little girl spirit who was waiting to get onto Earth. God, a kind of Monty Hall in “Let’s Make A Deal,” gave her a few choices as to what she could become, as apparently Earth was a big masquerade party, and you could choose your own costume. Before she entered and signed in, my niece was a pink light, and this other spirit friend was a yellow light. God showed them their options: she could be a bird, and enter Earth through that magic door, or a kitty, and go through that door, or she could be the little girl she was now, or another little girl, who would have different parents and live in a different place, through Door Number 4. No sooner had she chosen Door Number Three, she flew through it to become that which she had chosen to be, my niece. This little pink spirit came hoping for the best, and I think we pulled the rug out from under her.

Twelve years ago, when I first took her into my arms, she was three hours old. This infant stared at me for a solid seven minute eternity. I remember saying “Is she staring at me?” and my sister in law at the time (she is no longer my sister-in-law) said “I do believe she is.”

For years this little person and I were best friends. She would meet me at the door screaming with glee, she dangled from me like the shiniest and happiest ball on a lit up Christmas tree. She got my jokes and had my sense of humor, and looked a little like me. We had Art Days and made art and wrote books. My favorite was called “How To Name A Flea,” authored solely by her, with me as lowly stenographer. I solved my niece and nephew’s teary run ins, taught them how to make pop noises with their mouths and negotiated their tiffs. But with the divorce, all that ended. My niece was to me as Alec Baldwin’s Ireland was to him leading up to, during and after the dreaded phone tape. My whole family was villified while this poor child was manipulated into thinking her own family were the enemy. She went from an hilarious and happy child who impersonated chickens crossing the road – and who knew the truth within her heart- to a mean and frightened tattle tale who twisted spy reports to satiate her mother’s egoistic desire to eradicate her father’s family from the face of the earth, or at least, to wrench us from her child’s heart.

I may speed because I lost my niece, because when I sit still, it breaks my heart. This divorce thing- It’s like someone hijacks your car and speeds away with you standing there at the gas tank, pulled up to the pump with the nozzle in your hand. Suddenly someone you once knew and loved gets into your car and speeds away, taking the thing you love most in the world. I never fought so hard to keep something, to no avail.

Wikipedia says “Speed is the rate of motion, or equivalently the rate of change of distance … measured in the same physical units of measurement as velocity, but does not contain the element of direction that velocity has…” Which introduces the idea of direction in speed. If we speed in a particular direction, towards a certain valid destination, if we speed for a purpose, are we off the hook? When is it okay to speed? That question begs another: “Where are you speeding from?” and “Where are you speeding to?” Cosmically speaking, I’d ask “Who are you in between?”

I’d like to solve the puzzle, but after a while, all I see when I look at the word Speed is the letter S and the word PEED, which seems kind of accusatory, like I shouldn’t have done what all of us do at least four times a day. Or Speed looks like the name of one of those British barristers in the Law Firm of B. Badd, U. Horrid, and S. Peed, D.L.L., the U. standing for Uriah. Peed which reminds me of pissed, which is mad, or peeved, or crazy.

The problem being that I am better at Breaking or Making the Law, but not so much at Obeying It. I am rebellious by nature, a black thread that has run through my core since I was a wee girl, shedding my blouse and running through the Connecticut woods as deer munched grass and watched bemusedly. I’m a bit of a Russell Brand that way, without all the fluffy, sexy bits, and less mascara. So when I hear the word “Limit,” as in speed, I get a little frothy at the mouth. A little ravenously Bad, and desirous of committing an Unlimited or Radical Act, one that proves I am No Man’s Servant. Good behavior bores me, sometimes downright scares me. It reminds me of my ex-family member’s favorite word, “APPROPRIATE,” which makes me want very badly to be just as inappropriate as I can manage to be. It reminds me of what Hamlet says in the play of his own name, that “one may smile and smile, and be a villian.” Which is how I think of nice, appropriate people. I’d rather be around someone who bares his teeth and lurches like Richard the Third, growling and drooling, than go shoulder to shoulder with someone who nods and smiles like a ’50’s housefrau in a plaid apron, brandishing a featherduster. That’s my idea of a horror movie, the Stepford Wives. Everybody all behaving and cleaned up like that. All that smiling throws me off. I need a bit of law breaking.

That’s why when I speed I think of my ex sister-in-law, whom I refer to as my XSIL, reminding me of an ex-shill, someone who used to be “an accomplice of a hawker, gambler or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others” – which sounds exactly like me, or shrill- “high pitched or piercing”, the tone employed by such goodie two shoeses to keep their children from crossing the street without looking both ways. Or, more precisely, eggshells, which is what I walk on (quickly) when I am near a flawlessly law abiding person who uses words like “appropriate,” causing side effects such as cringing, shivering, dry mouth and constipation.

Which may be why I speed: to escape the Law, or law abiding persons. I believe that the abiding of laws in general should be self referential. Inotherwords, we all have an inherent sense of what’s right and wrong, for crying out loud. We can deliberate internally, weigh the possible outcomes, and decide if what we are doing will cause harm to ourselves or others, then opt to squelch our impulses. Mistakes will be made, like when I took my fancy shoes off to walk across the street and got a wee glass splinter in the bottom of my foot. A punishment that needed no scolding, ticket, or imprisonment. I may not take my shoes off next time, or maybe I will. My choice, but walking on eggshells is not an option.

Cultivating one’s sense of justice and good behavior could be an entirely self motivating task. In my eyes, it should be. Sometimes the gut knows better. We had my niece’s name day at an old Unitarian church in Nantucket that I knew to be haunted, as I had written and performed a play there under the auspices of a ghost astronomer named Maria Mitchell. My niece, at that point, was about one and a half, my nephew was three. Eyes stared at us from the portraits of old Nantucketers, following us around the little chapel. When we sat down and the Rabbi started to speak the ritual of the name day, my nephew threw his leg over the pew and started climbing. “I wanna to get outta hewe,” he stated, repeatedly, while starting to flee. Sometimes decorum is simply NA. There may be invisible factors that only the soul can reference.

Which reminds me of something my brother, who is my nephew’s father, said when we were little kids and my mother told him to behave. He said “I’m Being Hayve!” and that was that. He was being hayve and he knew it. The internal mechanism was intact so far as he was concerned. Maybe it runs in the family.

But what of my otherwise darling and golden hearted friend (who I shall call) Pablo, who got caught speeding three times and has to give up his license, swapping his car for a bicycle? A fabulous writer, yogi and person, quite spiritual, but hasty on his wheels? Are some of us not suited to self reflection of this nature and need to have tickets and signage in place to be reminded of how to behave? Or is all law an arbitrary rendering of first come first served, and whoever gets caught first gets served. It’s all so random anyway, isn’t it? Today you might be serving meals to the homeless and tomorrow you get caught doing what millions of people do everyday, S. Peeding. In Faulkner’s book As I Lay Dying, his protagonist says something along the lines of “It’s not so much what you’re doing as how people look at you while you’re doing it.” Crazy being in the mind of the beholder. If a bear speeds in the woods, should he get a ticket?

Although Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot,” I am thinking of doing a rewrite called “Speeding to Godot,” just to get the damn play over with. But the point Beckett was trying to make is that in all that waiting (aka Life) that Didi and Gogo do, lots happens. There is joking and philosophizing, processing and fulminating, figuring and negotiating. There is fighting and forgiveness, surprise entrances and dramatic exits. A lot happens in the Waiting Room. The waiting is a grand period of fecund gestation. Seeds grow at infinitesimal speeds (oo- that word), Time Lapse photography a beacon of hope revealing the real mojo in a seemingly slo-mo world.

To quell my Speed Habit, I have set myself to the task of Auto Awakening by establishing the following guidelines for myself, though you are welcome to join me in the New Triple A, the Auto Awakening Association:

1) I say to myself “By Jove, I am speeding!” Or my favorite “I am careening and bombilating!” Failing any embellishments or being in a bad mood, I simply state “I am mindful of my speeding.”

2) I say “please” and “thank you” to my fellow roadies whenever I drive. I actively look for such opportunities as letting someone go before I do. I am unnecessarily generous. Finding these opportunities, I then…

3) … gesticulate and employ the use of my human appendages to remind myself and others that there is a human in the vehicle and that they are human too. I drive with my hands and arms dangling and flaying out the window in a perpetual state of ‘how do you do’: displaying peace signs, waves, openings, ‘after yous,’ and ‘here you gos’ with Vanna-like aplomb, slowing and stopping even when I don’t want to. I am magnanimous and overly polite to reverse my bad speeding karma.

I think it’s working.

And I meditate, to slow my mind. I am able to get it to stop completely and in that stoppage, off I go, Speeding to Godot. A magnificent, fun filled, blissed out Carnival, all the rides suspended in mid-air. But is the stillness that we sit in when we are in meditation really still? The macro structure of Oneness is teeming with vitality, just as silence is rife with sound; the dull roar of AUM, the sound of the whirring world whizzing by at a cataclysmic rate, our particular Earth God like a kid spinning a globe in his Universal Daddy’s office. The trajectery of Stillness catapults beyond its first impulse, like our Universe, attaching and connecting and increasing beyond itself. Is anything still, or is it all speeding? The Earth itself, so they say, is rounding the Universe’s bend in the Milky Way at a breezy 66,700 miles per hour or so. Somebody give that planet a ticket!

Be Here Now, they say, but if one is here now, can one speed? I could have asked the perfect person that question, had I thought of it, but I missed my chance.

Next door to my brother, when my niece and nephew were born, lived Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. I was at a party there and Timothy Leary and I were sitting on the porch of a hazy, wheezy summer dusk. He was in his last years then, skinny and wee and radiating a kind of whirling light, though he was sitting there on a deck chair. At first, he was gesticulating wildly with his right arm, then as he narrated the wonders of the world, he went stark still. He was talking about life and its purpose and incandescence and though I don’t remember the words, I do remember that everything started to slow down until it came to a complete stop. The wine in its glass rose and sloshed its redness in a tinted film against the goblet’s side, the bees hung spinning in mid-air like teeny blimps with invisible sayings flagging behind them, hummingbirds sucked the straws of orange fluted flower petals and Timothy’s grainy, smoke washed voice wove a spell through the summer breeze. Oneness presented itself like a Grand Fried Magician tired of his own tricks, tired of trying to get his complacent audience’s attention. The Magician of Business and Speed dropped his arms, heaved a sigh, let go his bag of tricks, and gave up. As he did so, tree branches sprouted from the ends of his arms, birds flew from his hair and his monkey played a sprightly accordian jig in the treasured calliope of his surrendered thumper bumper. The Earth’s inhabitants beat as one heart. Speed and stillness became the same. The party morphed into a painting called “Still Life on Earth” and we hadn’t even dropped any acid. In its No Speed, all the color and sound and texture and wisdom and love pulsed and presented, rendering motion unnecessary; insignificant, overrated.

Is anybody going anywhere, anyway?

Sea Glassman is a writer, director, painter and filmmaker whose addiction to writing caused her to create Omvelope, an invisible online Ragazine devoted to the Arts and Spirituality.