Thursday, October 3, 2013

No More than 5 Minutes and Yet--

"50 cents gave him 5 minutes of resting time" were the words that headlined a priest's column on spirituality in the Catholic Times. On his way home from hearing a lecture, the priest heard his stomach growling for attention and something to eat, but he had only 50 cents. Up ahead of him was a street stall selling fish cakes, where he could buy one for the money he had.

Inside, he saw a woman making tteokbokki, spiced Korean rice-cakes. He entered the stall, paid for one fish cake, poured soy sauce over it, and took a bite. With a paper cup he took some of the fish cake soup and began to eat slowly, one bite of the fish cake and a sip from the cup.

Chewing slowly on his fish cake he took his time looking around at the surroundings. He gazed at faces of those passing the stall, the cars on the street, those who were waiting for one reason or another with unease, an elderly women using her baby carriage to help steady her steps, the face of a child registering pain as the child was being dragged along by his mother. The sky looked ominous with dark clouds and pending rain. A couple, seemingly lovers, entered the stall and ordered a dish of tteokbokki, which they shared feeding one another, a beautiful sight to see, he mused. Two high school girls, dressed in their school uniforms, entered, sending out their text messages, and finally sitting down to eat a fried dish in a hurry.

It was no more than 5 minutes, he guessed, that he was in the stall, enjoying the time immensely--and all for 50 cents. He had stopped himself long enough to look at the world passing by, with a restful heart and without words.  All by himself, with no special motive, he had enjoyed a simple, yet precious, moment of time. He got up and went on his way with his stomach now satisfied, along with his thoroughly satisfied mind and heart. But it wasn't long before the concerns of the day came back: the things that needed to be done and had not been done. Quickly, he found himself back in the past he had left behind for a brief 5 minutes in the fish stall.

He thought that with another 50 cents he would be again at rest, looking at the world from his seat in the street stall. Though it was only a 5 minute view of a world that seemed not to exist for him, that brief view had freed him for a few minutes from his own busy world. The much quieter world was always there, he knew, but because of his other concerns he had not seen it.

He was grateful for those moments in the stall when he became conscious of this different, slower paced world existing alongside his own, which had for a few brief moments flitted by so quickly in the same place and time as his own world. It was, he said, a very precious experience, one he is not likely to ever forget, when his own thoughts surrendered to another, more comforting reality.

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