The Pace of Clarity

I have long appreciated the distinction between “pace” and “speed.”

In her book, The Seven Whispers, Christina Baldwin offers a distinction that most moved me 18 years ago. As I remember it, “Speed,” she says, “is last-minute running through the airport to get to your gate before your flight departs. It’s leaping over rows of chairs and dodging people.”

Christina continues, “Pace is holding a toddler’s hand walking through the neighborhood. It’s more stopping than it is walking. The toddler has you responding to questions about bugs, weeds, pieces of litter, birds.”

Pace is natural. Speed is imposed.

We love speed, don’t we? Revering of speed has been enculturated into most of us. Yet, “It’s not all speed and efficiency.” That’s what my friend Meg Wheatley shared so often in her work with leaders defaulted into a mechanical views and disciplines of life lived. That’s what my son’s little Terrier Dog reminds me when we walk. It’s less of a walk. It’s more of a stop-to-sniff, that turns ten minutes into twenty-five.

And then there is all the stuff of slogans — “the speed of change, and the speed of life.” Again, a lot of imposed stuff intended to motivate as it does.

Now, me, back to pace, I’ve become more interested in the pace of clarity. The kind of clarity that aligns with purpose. The kind of clarity that brings feeling and joy back to the many kinds of life-endeavors we do, solo or in community. I’m interested in the kind of clarity that weaves mystery and multiplicity, that honors many mixes of diversity.

And the thing about clarity’s pace is that it can be slow or fast. It seems to me that pace of clarity can happen in an instant, in a surrender. Like the way that the lake freezes as a whole, edge to edge at just the right moment of winter. Like the way that intuition pops voice to brain and body knowing. Like the way that clouds part, leaving open sky.

It also seems to me that sometimes the pace of clarity is very slow. Like the way that teams build their patience muscles in return meetings together about things that don’t have finish lines. Like the way that complexity requires dwelling with, waiting for something to emerge naturally, rather that being force-fertilized. Like the way that geography evolves to patterns through the slow touch of wind and water.

Clarity is what moves an individual. Clarity is what moves a group of people. Or “enough clarity.” Clarity is an absolute, sometimes. But often it isn’t. It’s only knowing the next step in what will eventually be many steps. Clarity has values in it, that remain true across changing circumstance.

It’s not the shallow of clarity that compels me. It’s not faster, faster, faster so as to exhaustedly move on to the next thing. It’s the depth of clarity that compels me, the remembered joy of that toddler walk that became the surprise highlight and fulfillment of the week.

May there be a clarity that guides and that we remember to revere together.

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