For years now, I’ve heard about the “Slow Movement.” The ideals of keeping to a human pace, puzzling out and enjoying inherent creative processes, caring about human interactions and needs, and savoring life’s little moments one by one have always resonated with me.
But, hey…I’ve been busy! As the consensus-world kept picking up speed and going hyper, all kinds of interesting things were popping. The razzle-dazzle got brighter, and the pyrotechnics were grand.
Busy, busy, busy was the order of the day. I felt like the littlest cousin again, chasing after the big kids yelling, “Hey, guys! Wait for me!”
All that running was getting exhausting and I noticed that we were all turning a bit whiny and irritable.
And then the Covid-19 pandemic happened. All of a sudden, the world got the Slows. The pace went molasses on us and we all had to step back and take another look at what we are doing, where we are going, and how we’re going to get there.
Perhaps the Universe is telling us what actor Eddie Cantor once advised, “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
It shouldn’t be that difficult to do. A bunch of us have been practicing on it for some time now.
IT AIN’T JUST ABOUT SPEED
That name – “The Slow Movement” — is deceptive. For one thing, the ideas behind this so-called movement have very little to do with speed and a great deal to do with how we get things done and why.
The word “slow” in that label is actually an acronym for “Sustainable, Local, Organic and Whole.” Knowing that one factoid turns the thing into a whole other movie.
Chroniclers of the S.L.O.W. like to point to the year 1986 as the start of it all. They credit Carlo Petrini, a Leftist Italian journalist, as the leading light in this reiteration of an older way of walking.
Petrini initiated “Slow Food” as a protest against the planting of the McDonald’s Golden Arches above a restaurant doorway at the foot of the Spanish Steps in the Piazza di Spagma, the most famous square in Rome.
The invasion of cheap American fast food into the heart of an extraordinary foodie culture provoked a big push-back. Petrini and other like-minded lovers of good food raised the banners for mangia bene, “eating well.”
The rhetorical storm grew into a manifesto that emphasized locally grown regional ingredients and local food customs as well as sustainability and biodiversity. The activists plunked for skillful food-growing and -processing methods.
The Slow Food protests did little to stem the fast-food tide. The busy-buzzy ultra-efficient lifestyle in which the notions of “fast” have been evolving since the birth of the Industrial Revolution swept on.
This did not stop other fans all over the world from picking up the banner and running with it.
(You can get an overview of the history and growth of the Slow Food organization by clicking on the button below. It is remarkable.)
IS IT EVEN A “MOVEMENT”?
This so-called movement is sort of amorphous. There isn’t actually some organization or association overseeing the development of this S.L.O.W. thing. Slow Food had many, many sprouts and off-shoots all over the place.
Maybe it should be called an “up-welling” instead. Maybe it is just another way to “Just Say No.”
The core focus of it all, it seems to me, is on figuring out how to maintain a humane (and human) lifestyle while taking advantage of the technology that is available to us and using it to enhance and enliven our own lives.
Slow living, its proponents are quick to point out, is NOT about being lazy, good-for-nothing so-and-so’s. It’s not about living like a sloth or turning into some dazzled lotus-eater wandering around in a daze.
It seems that it’s more about avoiding the life of a grub and maximizing the joys of less as well as appreciating JOMO, the “joy of missing out”.
MAYBE IT’S JUST ANOTHER, OLDER WAY OF DANCING
In the more than three decades since the Italian protestors took to the streets, the whole S.L.O.W. cultural meme sparked international interest in a more humane, alternative way of walking through the world.
For real, guys, as we all know, the Hustle can get tiresome.
People all around the world questioned the modern-day perceived need to force ourselves to keep up with the mechanically measured nanosecond pacing of the tech-y paradigms that have spawned and spread since the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the 18th century.
They questioned the whole paradigm of people viewed as “human resources.” They keenly examined how the quality of our lives are being affected by these kinds of mind-constructs.
Many deep-thinking folks thought “slow living” was a better alternative than turning cyborg or going into Blade Runner mode.
“Slow living” does not consider human needs (like health, relationships, and the environment) as a suitable sacrifice for an increasingly giddy and glitzy vision of “success” towards which we post-modern sorts are routinely urged to gallop hell-for-leather at breakneck speeds.
Slow activists and practitioners understand that Life-Its-Own-Self is complex. “Faster/cheaper/more” is not necessarily more efficient, more productive, more effective or even more desirable than “slower/better/less.”
Living slow means embracing the understanding that in order to be a better (perhaps more complete) human you do have to pay close attention to what is in front of you and what is inside of you. Incorporating sustainable practices in your own way of walking and taking responsibility for the actions you take are all stances embraced by the slow life practitioners.
Taking care of yourself, and treating all of the other people and creatures involved in the transactions of your days equitably and empathetically as well as making the effort to take care of the places where you are living your life are just a part of their How.
As I look at all of this, it occurs to me that my ancestors and forbearers would certainly recognize all of those stances. It is an ordinary and integral part of what Hawaiians call “malama” or “taking care.”
Maybe I never officially joined the “Slow Movement” because I never felt the need to stick a label on my forehead, buttons on my lapels and bumper stickers on my vehicles. I just never stopped trying to live in the Hawaiian real old style.
Each of the ways of moving in malama-mode requires deep thought, quiet consideration, an intense attentiveness and a sharp focus that just are not possible when you’re in the middle of a roller-coaster ride.
Geir Berthelsen, who founded the World Institute of Slowness as a think tank in 1999 to promote slow awareness and activities around the world, once opined,
“Slowness is the forgotten dimension to time. Unlike chronological time, it is nonlinear, time here and now, time that works for you, extraordinary time. So why be fast when you can be slow? Slowness is also about balance, so if you must hurry, then hurry slowly.”
GETTING THE RHYTHM BACK
The various tenets of the slow living mindset have been applied to all kinds of different human endeavors. Among the “Slows” (besides Food) that have emerged are things like:
- Slow Architecture
- Slow Art
- Slow Beauty
- Slow Church
- Slow Cities
- Slow Communication
- Slow Consumption
- Slow Counseling
- Slow Dance
- Slow Design
- Slow Exercise
- Slow Fashion
- Slow Gaming
- Slow Gardening
- Slow Goods
- Slow Investment
- Slow Marketing
- Slow Media
- Slow Medicine
- Slow Money
- Slow Parenting
- Slow Photography
- Slow Reading
- Slow Sex
- Slow Schools
- Slow Scholarship
- Slow Science
- Slow Technology
- Slow Television
- Slow Thought (Philosophy)
- Slow Travel
- Slow Urbanism
- Slow Work
Well…you get the idea. Like the Slow Food model, many of these were grassroots initiatives, started by one or more persons who believed passionately in an idea and practiced it and talked it up until they got a whole bunch of other people behind it.
Some of the explorations have come and gone. Others keep on going. Some of it might just be authentic and genuine expressions of Being while the rest of it might just be posturing and matters of Style.
Some of it may arise from a feeling writer Pico Iyer once pinpointed, “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.”
Perhaps it is just the change of pace that affects us so deeply.
Another possibility might be that we really do need to get into better sync with our own natural visceral life-rhythms.
One of my favorite YouTube videos is “FOLI (There Is No Movement Without Rhythm),” a short film by Thomas Roebers and Floris Leeuwenberg. This version is the original, uploaded in 2010 by Thomas Roebers for sharing with the world. It is dedicated to the people of Baro who appear in the video.
The video is “age-restricted” so you need to click on the button below and then tell YouTube that you’re old enough to watch the thing.
It occurs to me that, as a group, we have a heck of a lot of experience – good and bad — at being human. Maybe the only thing we actually need to do is to stop trying to mimic the machines we created to help us make our human lives better.
Maybe all we need to do is learn more appropriate ways to fit our new tech into our older ways of walking.
Hey! Here’s a good idea: let’s stick our tools back into our toolboxes and pull them out when we need them, letting them just sit there when they are not necessary.
Maybe then we can get on with our dance.
Here’s a poem:
I AM … I WONDER … I HEAR …
I SEE … I WANT … I AM …
I KNOW … I SAY … I DREAM …
I TRY … I HOPE … I AM …
[Hmmm… How ’bout marching in two-by-two?]
I AM/I WONDER
I HEAR/I WANT
I SEE/I AM
I KNOW/I SAY
I DREAM/I TRY
I HOPE/I AM
[Oh, cool! How ’bout a do-see-do?]
I AM/I KNOW
I WONDER/I SAY
I HEAR/I DREAM
I SEE/I TRY
I WANT/I HOPE
I AM/I AM
[Then there’s breakdancing (on its head)….]
I KNOW/I SEE/I AM
I HEAR/I AM
I DREAM/I SAY/I HOPE
I AM, AM, AM, AM, AM….
So few words.
The power’s in the ‘I’.]
By Netta Kanoho
Header Photo credit: “In Praise of Slow” by saoriweaver via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
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