Section: Opinion

Don’t be like Gatsby: embrace stillness

A few mornings ago, as I drew the blinds, my eyes were filled with the lavender streak painted across the morning sky. Two things came to mind. One was a sentence by Henry Drummond in a sermon of his called The Changed Life: “The change we have been striving after is not to be produced by any more striving after. It is to be wrought upon us by the moulding of hands beyond our own.” The other was a simple admonition from Christ: “Don’t outrun me.” Last night, running down the Gap Trail, I looked through the trees at Peirce Dining Hall. Strange, isn’t it, I thought. How constructed it is. As I kept running, I felt Kenyon to be a good metaphor for me: we both grew, we didn’t sprout. What a comfort that is in our hasty time and day!

“I say that Man was made to grow, not to stop,” Robert Browning once wrote. We stop when we demand growth, which is easy to do when the future starts to loom over us. As we near the end of another semester, it’s tempting to demand answers and certainties about our future that we are unable to give. Growth isn’t something we can will, no matter how passionate we may be for progress. As you go about your day, hand over the breathless, speedy, assertive you and embrace peace and stability. Face each day as the adventure it is, letting God mold you. When we take hold of life like a plow, we often end up plowing wrong; it’s better that the oxen plow, or in our case, the goodness around us. Don’t be like America. Don’t rush on like Gatsby toward the dream. Sometimes we dream so big that we outrun the real, luscious, original plan.

Volunteering at the Salvation Army in Mount Vernon has given me a chance to slow down. I’ll never forget the joy of those kids as I hoist them up to the monkey bars and catch them when their hands begin to slip. Being out on that playground requires a steady application of the brakes. While the other volunteers take a seat on the bench, I flock to the monkey bars, where time passes in giggles and screams. The best wavelength to live on is heaven’s, and one that makes us a child.

Going from the world to Kenyon and Kenyon to the world can feel like going from a playground to the high-pressured pilot seat. But this experience isn’t necessary. The post office and the old path speak the same thing. Stillness lives all around us; let stillness live in you, and work on you, like the sun works on the soil. I won’t forget how beautiful it was when little Chloe leapt into my arms and let her head droop across my back. My cares disappeared as I focused on holding her. Slowing down, I’ve found the secret slowness that cradles the world. My future, though I knew nothing more about it than I did a moment prior, felt like pure goodness, soaked in sun, like the Nebraska prairie when the sun, a mere orange disk on the horizon, illumines every leaf and crevice for miles. We’re a part of that. Love has no ambitions; Chloe has no ambitions. Love is the most slow-moving and still thing in the world, and it certainly will not leave when we leave Kenyon.

The best thing about the clock in my room is the way it looks like a pocket watch blown up and placed in Alice in Wonderland — not the ticking. In the same way, the best thing about life is that it is tailor-made to the adventure we are personally meant to have. But staying on that road will require growing into our own true hue as slowly as the lavender appears in the morning sky.

Kelly Reed ’16 is an English major from Potomac, Md. Contact her at


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