This is actually about the 5th time I have tried to write this post. I thought I should write a post on exactly what slow living is, and then I discovered my concept was maybe not as solid as I had thought. At first I was worried, then I saw the humour in the situation. Here I am, setting out to write a blog on a subject I cannot define!
There is a belief out in internetland that if you cannot explain a concept to a reasonably intelligent 10 year old then you don’t understand it yourself. Maria Montessori built an entire, successful, education system on the belief that a child did not understand a concept until they could teach it to another child. So with this in mind I shall attempt to define slow living.
Slow living is more than the sum of its words. The word ‘slow’ is more of an insult than a compliment. Along with ‘methodical’, ‘painstaking’ and ‘measured’ the word ‘slow’ has come to mean something undesirable. A methodical person may not be quite as bad as a slow person but neither is admired like the quick person or the lively one. Consider the difference between being told your child is a slow learner or an accelerated learner. Yet we have all been told the fable of the hare and the tortoise, we know that quick is not always best but still we revere speed. The task completed swiftly is more desirable than the task completed painstainkly; the task one has taken pains over.
This reminds me of a student job I had, at a plant nursery. We were setting bedding plants into cells for sale to garden centres and supermarkets. The seedlings came in seed trays, many hundreds of seedlings crammed together. Our job was to separate each seedling and plant it in its individual cell in a 6 pack. We made holes with a dibber, dropped the seedling in and pushed the soil over in the same movement. We had to complete a certain number of trays in a given time or we were not paid.
Some seedings were a doddle. Small and easy to separate they dropped into their holes, and the target was easily met or even exceeded. Other seedings, however, were a different matter. Their roots were tangled or exceptionally long and not easy to fit into the holes without leaving some root exposed to the air. Then we had to slow down and the targets were not met. When we were told to speed up we pointed this out only to be told it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the seedlings were planted and the trays shipped out that evening. If the plants died later that was not the nurseries problem, the speed was the thing.
After a bit of thought, and trial and error, we solved the problem. Get ahead on easy seedlings then you could take your time with the difficult ones. Then we came up with the better idea of putting the fastest students on easy seedlings and the more methodical students on the difficult ones and combining the trays for counting. Notice who got the hard job; the painstaking, methodical students. The slow ones.
Slow living grew out of the slow food movement. The slow food movement started in Italy as a reaction against fast food. Its founders believed that food prepared slowly, with care and love at home, and shared over a glass of wine with dear friends had to be better than fast food. Food, mass produced and cooked, grabbed from a takeaway and eaten in the car, standing on a street corner or at ones desk at work.
The idea spread around the world and the concept grew too. Now the slow movement embraces slow cities, slow schools, slow books, slow life in fact.
So why is this better than speed? Surely if we can just get our duties and obligations out of the way quickly we will have more time to spend doing what we want to do. Spending time with our families or on our hobbies and interests. Interestingly it does not seem to work this way. The faster we go the more superficial our relationships seem to become. We rush through our morning routines, getting the kids off to school, often saying little more to them than “Have you brushed your teeth?” or “Hurry-up. You’ll miss the bus”. We skip our own breakfast and grab a coffee from the van in a lay-by on the way to work. Once there we rush and hurry through our projects, then dash off to pick up the dry cleaning on the way to get the kids. As they have soccer after school we feed them with a drive through takeaway, eaten in the car on the way to dropping them off, and instead of watching them play, nip to the supermarket to grab something for our meal. Back to get the kids, drive home, bathe them, get them to bed and put our meal in the microwave. Is it any wonder after all this we collapse in front of the TV rather than sharing a lovingly made meal at the table whilst talking over the day with our partner?
Slow living is about finding a way to stop all this insanity. Its about getting rid of the things in our lives that steal the time we would rather spend doing what we want to do. Its about finding out what we really want to do in the first place. Its about slowing down, enjoying time with friends and family, reading a good book, partaking in the hobby or learning the skill you have always wanted. Its about taking the time to smell the roses.
This blog is an attempt to find ways of doing this.
- Slow Food Movement (juanprestamo.wordpress.com)