Overrated! Speed feels good. Thrilling at times. Once we’ve had it, we want more of it. It’s addicting. What was once fast is now considered slow, even to the degree of being annoying. The need for speed erodes our ability to be here now. Well, let’s take a little of that precious time and celebrate going slowly.
Forget What You Know
Knowing what you know about time is mostly wrong. Einstein said time is relative, which for me means time is not a set, known quantity. One experiment showed that a highly accurate atomic clock flown around the earth ran slightly slower than an identical one that was left on the ground. Perception of time is clearly different from person to person. The student sitting in a boring classroom sees five minutes as a half-hour or so. Meanwhile, another student playing in the school band for the same period may sail through with a virtual wind at her back.
It shouldn’t matter whether you’re fast or slow when you’re working or playing or you’re idle. I’m getting right to the point early in this post and I’ll let the remainder of the article work itself out without any planning on how to pace it. Time be damned! It does matter what you’re experiencing as you’re doing whatever you’re doing. I submit here and now that you should be right there with whatever is happening in the moment and grokking the hell out of it. Immersing yourself, absorbing as much as you are capable of, resisting nothing about it allows for the full experience with all its energy and inherent enrichment.
I’ve grown away from that over the years, but I have recently remembered that I know how to do it. The power to take it slow and enjoy something for all its worth is still within me. In fact, it’s part of who I am. I daresay it’s part of everyone, but there must be many who would not only disagree with the concept, but also are repelled by it. Taking it slow represents boredom to them. Taking it slow doesn’t mean you’re moving at a snail’s pace. Flying through work for many could be done mindfully and taking in all the nuance of the fleeting instant. In my estimation, these people are gifted. I just don’t possess that gift and I happen to function best at my own pace. Long live difference!
There are wiser people than me who have written some eloquent words about the wisdom of living slow. For instance, the Moody Blues recorded a song called Candle of Life that touches me deeply. The hook goes, “Burn slowly the candle of life.” That puts me in the perfect state of mind for how life should be lived.
Here’s a book excerpt that nails it for me. “The best thing about knitting is its slowness,” says Murphy. “It is so slow that we see the beauty inherent in every tiny act that makes up a sweater. So slow that we know the project is not going to get finished today–it may not get finished for many months or longer–and that allows us to make our peace with the unresolved nature of life. We slow down as we knit.”
— Carl Honoré (In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed)
What a concept–the Cult of Speed. That’s the kind of thing I was alluding to in my introduction above. If it isn’t fast, it’s inferior. I believe the human race is in a phase where we are habitually reaching for increased speed in almost everything. Examples abound. High speed internet isn’t enough for some–it must be highest speed internet. Same day shipping. Same day service. Speed dating. Baseball was once considered action-packed, but now is often seen as boring by football, basketball and even soccer fans. The agony of waiting for a website or streaming service to stop buffering is almost unbearable, whereas the same wait for the same result 40 years ago would have been a technological marvel.
The Ecstasy of Slow
The array of hasteless activities to be celebrated in mellow yellow mode is far-ranging and easily available. Pull up a stump or a lawn chair and go fireside. Gaze into the flames until they fade into dying embers. Drop a line into your nearest lake or stream and fish your cares away. Sink into a good book and really immerse yourself in that world. For a more proactive approach, take on a project in your favorite art or craft to get the same type of enjoyment the knitter savors. That’s the key word right there. Savor every moment, every hour and every day. Burning slowly the candle of life lights a glow that may last a lifetime.