There are two somewhat renowned intersections on the island. One is the notorious “5 Corners” and the other is the intersection of the Edgartown Road and State Road. There are no traffic control lights. If entrenched island custom holds, there never will be. Drivers, especially during the height of the summer season, approach each intersection with cautious trepidation. Islanders’ conversation about summer traffic often leads to the revelation of driving strategies like taking the long way around in order to avoid making left turns across traffic. Traffic jams are a given.
The arrival of a ferry, full of cars with drivers anxious to reach their destination after a long trip followed by a 45 minute crossing from the mainland, increases the challenge of moving through 5 Corners. Drivers push their way through the intersection, often ignoring stop signs and creating a dangerous snarling gridlock. Islanders know to schedule their trips into town to avoid the arrival of a boat.
Pedestrians frequently play an unwitting role in the flow of traffic, especially at 5 Corners. Cars have to stop to permit them to cross the busy intersections safely. When this happens, vehicles in other lanes have a chance to make their turn into the flow of traffic and things keep moving, albeit at a snail’s pace, especially during the summer months. The minute pauses make a difference.
It may be a huge leap from a momentary pause on the part of a thoughtful driver to the notion of a generous sabbath pause for a land and for its people but there is a relationship between how we attend to the smaller details of life and how we treat one another and the planet.
The sacred texts do not invite us to pause - - they command it. The wisdom behind the texts is in the service of all humankind. It is in our own best interest to slow down, to pause, to feel ourselves as part of a larger flow of life - to take time to rest and restore ourselves - and even more importantly to find ways to allow the environment around us to be left alone to rest and replenish itself as well.
It is Friday. At sundown Shabbat begins. 25 hours in which a great and graceful permission is given to rest. Would that humankind could do and hear the command to pause and allow the flow of human life and the life of the planet a time of restoration.