Two weekends ago my family was at a zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was a small zoo, for someone from New York, but good enough. There were “real” animals – lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras. And there was a sloth, sharing a cage with various species of monkeys. The monkeys zipped about, swinging and jumping from hanging vine to hanging vine. The sloth was amazingly sloth-like, slowly making its way up a branch in the cage.
The sloth was slow, so slow. And the zoo volunteer told us that, actually, for a sloth, it was pretty much speeding its way along. That the four-foot path along the branch was an accomplishment for a sloth. It was a huge journey. A major achievement.
I thought of how “sloth” is an insult to many people. It is, in fact, one of the seven deadly sins. And I felt sorry for this sloth. It wasn’t his fault (he was a he – the she was in a different part of the zoo) that he was slow moving. He was a sloth. He wasn’t lazy or sluggish. He wasn’t suffering from apathy or shiftlessness. He was a sloth.
Then I started to wonder what I could learn from the sloth. I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on slowing down. I’m taking more pauses, being less frantically driven, allowing myself more time to move slowly up my branches. Now I’m playing with the balance of moving fast and moving slow – knowing that I don’t want to throw away all of my energetic movement and accomplishments, but that I also want to make room for more space, more slowness. To enjoy the days I quickly take action and get “it” all done, and also permit myself to move slothfully up a metaphorical branch at times, and to view that as an accomplishment. Enough for one day.
There was beauty in that sloth. His movements were smooth and fluid. He calmly took his place, and held his space, in a cage full of monkeys that were excitedly swinging and jumping from branch to branch. The sloth was not disturbed. He seemed content to let the monkeys create chaos around him, and to just be a sloth. He saw nothing wrong with his sloth-ness. He contentedly, calmly, moved from where he was to where he wanted to be. And that was enough.