The aim of life is appreciation. – GK Chesterton
Contrast that with how I feel today: Always in a rush. I wish every day had 25 hours. I couldn’t survive if I didn’t multi-task: listening to my son read whilst preparing breakfast (or supper), catching up on phone calls whilst driving (via hands-free, of course), juggling at least 2 or 3 projects at the same time. I’m writing this from the car, while I wait for my son’s swimming lesson to finish.
Plus it’s already mid-way through August 2009 and I frequently wonder where the year has gone. I have the last four months of this year and the first four of next already mapped out. Barring any calamity, I know what I shall be doing on April 16, 2010 (speaking at a conference). My diary is managed to within an inch of its life. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I feel I must have everything planned or nothing will happen: things won’t get done, friends and family will be forgotten, appointments will be missed, letters unanswered, and the house will deteriorate into a dust-laden cobwebby muddle. I seem to be constantly running just to stand still.
Do you ever feel like this?
Life Is Accelerating
There can be no doubt that life is accelerating: kids grow up faster, everything needs to be done now, business is 24/7, and so are we, with our instant connection to each other via email, mobile, and Blackberry.
The problem, as fans of the Slow Movement would have it, is that we’re all addicted to speed (the temporal eight-days-a-week variety that is, as opposed to the chemical, mind-altering kind), and that is the fault of our unremitting obsession with consumerism – be that fast food, fast cars, or anything in between. “I shop therefore I am”, said American artist Barbara Kruger. And not only do we want everything, but we want it all now. We no longer seem able to wait for anything. But the problem with instant gratification, at least according to the actor and writer Carrie Fisher, is that it just takes too darned long!
So what’s the remedy – we all just need to take our foot off the gas pedal, and cruise along at a more leisurely pace, right? But taking things slowly is anathema to me, and, I suspect, to the vast majority of people who work, are raising a family, or study. Slow just isn’t in the least bit appealing – you only have to look at the synonyms to see what I mean:
apathetic, boring, dawdling, idle, indolent, leaden, lethargic, listless, passive, phlegmatic, plodding, procrastinating, protracted, sleepy, slothful, sluggish, snail-like, stagnant, tardy, tedious, time-consuming, torpid, tortoise-like….Fast on the other hand – now that’s so much more attractive: fast is full of energy, zest and enthusiasm, it’s peppy, it’s perky, it’s both pronto and presto, it’s also the life and soul, it’s Usain Bolt at the World Championships. There’s no doubt that we’re completely head-over-heels in love with fast…Does anyone know who came in last in that 100m race? I rest my case.
And even though we’re all familiar with that Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise, and how the plodding reptile ultimately wins out against the break-neck bunny, somehow the vast majority of us can’t seem to stop ourselves busily buzzing around like blue-bottomed flies. We would never get by if we slowed down, would we?
Health and Happiness Increase With Slowness
Well actually, yes we would, and we’d all be a lot healthier and happier as a result, according to Slow Movement aficionados, such as Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow. Paradoxically, says Honoré, “Slow” isn’t necessarily slow, hence its attachment to the phrase festina lente or “hastening slowly.” Living Slow means that there are times when fast is good and appropriate, but equally there are times when slow is better. Living Slow means respecting traditions but not to the exclusion of progress and not in order to avoid change. It really is a way of achieving balance in one’s life. Moreover, it’s about living life intentionally.
I would argue that positive psychology’s savoring is an approach that is at the heart of the Slow Movement. Savoring, according to Bryant & Veroff, is the capacity to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experiences in life. This resonates of paying attention, deliberation, and intention. Just as savoring is the new model of positive experience, Slow is a new approach to living, being, and doing.
How Can I Live the “Slow Movement”?It’s worth knowing that the Slow Movement has produced many other Slow offshoots, all with the Slow philosophy at the heart:
Slow Travel: savoring the journey rather than rushing just to get to the destination. It’s about engaging with the local culture and people en route, and taking the time to immerse oneself in the atmosphere of a place rather than taking a tick-box mentality to the major, must-see tourist spots. “Doing Europe” the guidebook, major-attractions way is definitely not a Slow Travel approach.
Slow Design: making products in a sustainable way, using high-quality materials and real craftsmanship. Slow Design champions quality over quantity, and rejects our everything-is-disposable culture completely.
Slow Food: where the Slow Movement started in the 1980s. Slow Food is anti-fast food and pro locally-produced food. It’s about learning how to savor food, both alone and with friends; it’s about taking the time to prepare and enjoy food (see Paladares article here), and about buying local foods which haven’t traveled thousands of air miles.
Slow Parenting: letting kids be kids; giving them the opportunity to enjoy their brief childhood, to play and be themselves, rather than providing 24/7 supervision and channeling them early in academic (or other) achievement.
Slow Cities (Città Slow): these are towns and cities committed to improving the quality of life of their citizens. Their goal is to make cities more pleasant places to live, with more open/green spaces for meeting, fewer cars and more pedestrians. Slow Cities also seek to promote traditional foods, and have sprung up across the world from Norway to Brazil, including the UK.
Slow Sex: prolonging and intensifying pleasure is an important aspect of savoring. I’ll leave the details to your imagination!
The importance of the Slow Movement philosophy is its emphasis on savoring the good life and making the most of what we already have. Yet it’s realistic, seeking to balance our fundamental human needs with the demands of our modern lifestyles. It’s about taking responsibility for our own well-being, and at the same time, acknowledging the impact of our choices on others around us.
So the question I’d like to leave you with is,
“Which aspect of your life could benefit from a Slow Movement approach?”
Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience.. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Honoré, C. (2005). In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed. London: Orion Books.