One of the first things that attracted me to Greece and Italy, as a young EuroRail passholder fresh out of college, was their particular relationship with time. Whereas in the states, everything was schedules and deadlines, hurry, hurry, hurry, in these Mediterranean cultures everything was “relax.” The stores were closed on weekends, dinners were 4-hour affairs. Even if you wanted to rush, the world was against you: there were unexpected train and bus strikes, limited restaurant hours, siestas in the afternoon.
Soon after I arrived, I understood that this was a dimension I was utterly unfamiliar with. When had I ever accomplished so little, yet felt so peaceful?
I once asked my Italian friend, after we had spent the better part of the morning hanging out at a café, “What are we doing today?” His reply, “We’re doing it.” So what, exactly, were we doing?
We were being.
Now, being is interesting. It’s a kind of spontaneous “not doing” – like those days at the beach, after you finish your book and allow yourself an aimless afternoon talking to the locals. Suddenly, without ambition, plans or worries, you’re in the timeless moment.
If you let it, time expands. It really does.
It reminds me of a chance meeting I had once at a gym in Atlanta with an elderly woman. We were near the water fountain and had somehow started having an lively conversation about art and literature. Just as we were getting animated, she looked at her watch and apologized. She was late for an appointment. On a Sunday.
And it made me long, once again, for Greece and Italy, where priorities are different, and lives are arranged in such a way as to allow conversations at water fountains to have breathing room, and dinners to allow for silences together.
And most of all, where BEING is allowed to pull you out of your story for a moment and show you something so big and timeless that you’ll feel taller for the rest of your life.