Next time you’re in a public space, a café, a bar arena or even a restaurant, take a peep around at how many people either alone, in couples or groups of friends are on their phones, travelling the internet, keeping up to speed with the latest viral sensation.
This need for a flash spectacle is fantastically portrayed in the recent film BIRDMAN. Michael Keaton’s character, a washed up actor, gets accidentally locked out of his Broadway production naked midway through the play’s performance and has to walk through a congested Times Square. A common nightmare that I and I am sure others have.
People are addicted to the net, trailing through Twitter, Facebook and the like, an endless stream of information flowing like a river full of driftwood that cannot be used for anything of purpose. Although there will be an occasional salmon. This buzzing is constant on all apps. We are all moving so fast and trying to achieve the unachievable.
I saw Carl Honore talk on the excellent TED site last year on slowing down and paying more attention to what is around us. His discussion on the slow movement encouraged me to buy his book, IN PRAISE OF SLOW. I generally buy a lot of books from the site ABE books. As they deal in second-hand copies, there is always something exciting about getting a book someone else has had, with occasional receipt or ticket as book markers, scribbling inside and the odd personal message.
In general the books come in a day or two from the time I order them. For some reason this particular book took a few weeks. Perhaps a witty bookseller was teaching me a lesson before I had even opened the pages of the manifesto. In keeping with the title of this book, I have read it slowly over the last few weeks. Normally when I am captivated by a subject I consume it quite fast, but I felt particularly with this topic it would be better to cogitate over each idea. I’d highly recommend reading it in a similar fashion.
We spend much of our lives seeing without observing.
This is very apparent in the arguments put forward in the for a slower approach to all aspects of our lives from sex to food. To start the New Year, ten minutes hate caught up with Carl Honore and asked him to summarise why we should slow down:
To recharge your physical batteries. Our bodies burn out when stuck in fast-forward. Pausing from time to time to rest allows us to enjoy life with more energy.
To look back. Memories are hard to form when we live too fast. Pausing allows us to savour and learn from past experiences.
To see the big picture. Pausing to reflect allows us to look beyond the trivial distractions of the moment to ponder the deeper questions: Who am I? What is my purpose here? How can I make the world a better place?
To take pleasure. Many of us are racing through life rather than living it. Pausing allows us to engage fully with the moment, which means doing everything better and enjoying it more.
To connect. Relationships wither when we try to rush them. Pausing allows us to listen to other people, to be with them fully. It also allows others to connect with us.
To be more creative. Neuroscience tells us that slowing down is an essential pre-condition for creativity. Pausing allows us to unleash our imagination and creative powers in the workplace and everywhere else.
To save the world. We are burning out the planet by consuming much more than we need. And much shopping is driven by impulse decisions. Pausing allows us to resist the siren call of turbo-consumerism and to make sensible decisions about what to buy.
You can find more information here.
So far for 2015, I am trying to ensure I spend quality time with friends and family, where they have my undivided attention, not ‘oh, I just need to take this call.’
I’ve joined a rambling club so a couple of times a month I can land in the middle of nowhere and walk for the day without any digital toxins, using a compass not a sat nav. I find it quite disturbing to be told you have reached your final destination, it sounds too much like death. In the same way I can never get over the fact they call an airport a terminal, after all that is also too, too final.
To combat the 24 hour online working society that we have become, where we can work anytime and anyplace, I now have a tech-free curfew for a few hours every day, I keep away from a digital screen. I can still write down my ideas but only in a sketch book. No digital sound beats the scratching down on to paper with a sharpened pencil. In the orchestration of our lives, we would all benefit from a marked rallentando, before the inevitable conclusion that awaits us all.
As Simon and Garfunkel aptly sang in The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy):
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the moment last…