Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Living Slow

I see that one reader arrived at my blog by doing a google search on "live slow". I guess that's not surprising -- the phrase is up there in my title bar. I must admit that I didn't give that choice of words a great deal of thought when I started the blog. "Live slow, sail fast" after all is just a slogan on a T-shirt.

I knew that one of the major themes of the blog would be "sail fast", my often futile attempts to improve my sailboat racing skills; and as a relatively recent retiree the "live slow" slogan resonated with me after a half a century of hustle and hassle to get good grades, to get into the right college, to get the right job, to get promotions ... a hectic life of schedules and work and meetings and deadlines and business travel. "Live slow" was just a statement of rejection of that life style, a commitment to take it easier in retirement.

But following up on that google search I see that "living slow" is much, much more serious than I had imagined. It's a whole philosophy, a movement even. It seems to have got started with the Slow Food movement which was founded in 1986 as a response to the opening of a McDonald's restaurant on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Slow Food, now an international organization with over 80,000 members, has an aim to "protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life". They promote gastronomic culture, develop taste education, and work to protect agricultural biodiversity and traditional foods.

Mmmm... sounds tasty.

The Slow Food movement in turn gave rise to a network of Slow Cities "where living is easy". These are towns "where men are still curious of the old times, towns rich of theatres, squares, cafes, workshops, restaurants and spiritual places, towns with untouched landscapes and charming craftsman where people are still able to recognize the slow course of the Seasons and their genuine products respecting tastes, health and spontaneous customs."

Hmmm - that sounds good. However, I notice that their website doesn't seem to award the "slow city" accolade to any towns in the USA. Perhaps they have just been a bit slow updating the website?

Some take it even further and argue for the virtues of slowness in almost every aspect of life. In his book In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore reports that he sees everywhere evidence of "a great hunger for slowness". He writes not only of enjoying a four hour slow food dinner in Italy but also of a "slow school" in Japan founded by parents as an alternative to high stress classes. He tells of a group that plays music such as Mozart slowly (sounds a bit like my guitar playing), the superslow weightlifting movement (I can relate to that) and Honore even enrolls, with his wife, in a class on slow sex (no comment).

The common themes running through most of these ideas seem to be an emphasis on quality over quantity; a commitment to take the time to appreciate the finer things in life; an emphasis on paying attention to the details of each experience. It's more than a rejection of speed; it's a celebration of life by electing to live it a pace that allows one to enjoy each of its adventures to the utmost.

Then there is a blog called Slow Leadership with posts on such topics as What's So Good About the Work Ethic? and Slow Leadership in Practice which is about a company that "trusts its employees to set their own salaries and working times... (who) go to meetings only if they think they need to... The company has no official structure, no organizational chart, no business plan and no corporate strategy." Not sure how some of that would have gone down with my old employer but it sounds like a cool place to work.

Slow living is even a subject for serious academic research. Wendy Parkins of Murdoch University in Western Australia (a splendid place to live slow, by the way) has published an article in a learned journal on Fast Subjects and Slow Living. Here is the abstract.

Slow living involves the conscious negotiation of the different temporalities which make up our everyday lives, deriving from a commitment to occupy time more attentively. This article considers the significance of time in practices of slow living and the imbrication of time and speed in notions of 'slowness' where slowness is constructed as a deliberate subversion of the dominance of speed. By purposely adopting slowness, subjects seek to generate alternative practices of work and leisure, family and sociality.

Imbrication? Sociality? Geeze this is getting heavy.

As you can see some of these folk in the slow movement are very earnest in their arguments for the merits of slowness. They can seem a little too purposeful for my taste. Do we really have to work so hard at the slow life?

I think I need a break.


EVK4 said...

this is off-topic slightly, but I have to point it out to someone. If you google true sailor, I come up first. Of course, I'm talking about someone else in the post, but I'm first for TRUE SAILOR!!!!

Tillerman said...

Fame is so ephemeral. I just did a search on true sailor (only 4 minutes after your comment) and you're already down to #3.

Anonymous said...

He's number 1 on Google, I can't find him on Yahoo, nope on Alta Vista, ditto ASK.....

EVK4 said...

That is really really interesting. Google has become such a household word that it means to search rather than to search on google.

BTW, if you do google true sailor click on the link to help keep it up there.

Katinka said...

This is an excellent post...I would like to link to this on my blog as that topic has been on my mind for some years (how's that for slow?) Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Live in Delhi and the traffic's slow enough.... :-) great article...loved it.

Post a Comment