An old Dublin acquaintance once told a story of driving home from a dinner at a yacht club in Dun Laoghaire. Driving from Dalkey, he was driving down from Killiney Hill. It was a fine, clear evening and there was a full moon. Catching sight of the moon reflected in the waters of the bay, he slowed almost to a stop to enjoy the moment.
Suddenly, he became aware of flashing blue lights behind him. He pulled up at the roadside and a squad car pulled up in front of him. Two Gardai stepped from the car and walked back to speak to him. They must have experienced a moment of frustration at finding there was nothing with which to accuse him except driving slowly.
Looking at the Garda, who had complained of the slowness with which he had been driving, he recited lines from the poet W.H. Davies:
What is life, if, full of care,
there’s no time to stand and stare?
He never said how the Gardai had reacted.
The question posed by W.H. Davies might be one that is posed to many people – there seems a constant desire to rush everywhere, no-one seeming to think it important to take time to stand and stare.
The poem from which Davies’ lines come is called Leisure. He would have been baffled at the thought that times of leisure seem to have become times when people are most inclined to rush.
Thoughts of gentle spin through country lanes on a bicycle have been replaced by feeling a need to dress in Lycra, to have a bicycle that will travel downhill at the speed of a fast car, and to be part of a group of riders whose focus seems to be on the activity of cycling rather than the enjoyment of the environment through which they ride.
If there were always people among cyclists who put speed before tranquility, most people on foot would have savoured the views and the features of the route on which they walked. Perhaps it is the Lycra that has impelled people, but many of them now run instead of walking. Faces set in permanent winces, they go running along the road. The dark evenings have become occasions for the runners to wear headbands with lamps. Luminous singlets or vests ensure that no-one fails to notice the runners.
Why the rush? Why the need to cover ground as quickly as possible? Why not just stopping to stand and stare?