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Living at the Right Speed

--by Carl Honore (Feb 05, 2007)


Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections -- with people, culture, work, food, everything. The paradox is that Slow does not always mean slow. As we shall see, performing a task in a Slow manner often yields faster results. It is also possible to do things quickly while maintaining a Slow frame of mind. A century after Rudyard Kipling wrote of keeping your head while all about you are losing theirs, people are learning how to keep their cool, how to remain Slow inside, even as they rush to meet a deadline at work, or to get the children to school on time.

Despite what some critics say, the Slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail's pace. Nor is it a Luddite attempt to drag the whole world back to some pre-industrial utopia. On the contrary, the movement is made up of people like you and me, people who want to live better in a fast-paced, modern environment. That is why the Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word: balance. Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto -- the right speed.

--Carl Honore


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11 Previous Reflections:

 
On Feb 14, 2007 janani wrote:
brilliant writing, Pavi.
thanks, to QAD, I mean daily good!

On Feb 14, 2007 Richard wrote:
Pavi, I very much enjoyed your words. "Time waits for no man" so the saying goes and we try to rush forward cramming as much as possible into our short time on this earth. However in our rush to the next thing we often miss the beautiful things that were around us all along.

On Feb 9, 2007 paras wrote:
nice reflection on the 'slow europe' movement:

(see link)

On Feb 8, 2007 janani wrote:
In response to Marsha's comments:

Thank you. It is interesting to note
that Bagvad Gita says:

He who can see action in inaction and inaction in action, he is verily wise, Arjuna!

On Feb 6, 2007 supun wrote:
I don't know if Slow or Fast is better. I think fast is futile if it's motivated by unreal expectations or that greedy side of you. Fast is good if you just want to find limits or boundary conditions to yourself. I've always thought that you only need to be Slow if you find yourself to not be concious of the things you need to be (ie careless).

On another note, I was talking to either my friend Suhk or Sonali and we were saying that taking a breath is one of the most intense things you can do. It's intense (imagine all the life force being taken to your millions of cells with each breath or at least something needed to react for that life force to exist) but we are built for it to be so easy. I enjoy intense things that come with little effert it's kind of "chaotic" -- that's my play on words for today :)

On Feb 6, 2007 pavi wrote:

this reminds me of something i scribbled awhile ago on slow things :-)... Meandering leads to perfection - Lao Tzu :-) Come walk with me awhile no no don't hand me your excuses- i'll drop them on the floor (i'm clumsy like that) and they will break into a hundred hard-to-put-together-pieces and then you will have no more excuses at all- so you really might as well come walk with me now for awhile- since we're all on our way to perfection anyhow-and this moment you're holding was meant for meandering (a wonderful word that) and what it means is being very not in a hurry very willing to explore what's around the next bend and the next and the next and what a wonderful way is that to live in this world (a wonderful world this) know it is a gift to have that kind of time that kind of trust the time and trust that old people and children have and so do puppies the time and trust to smile with their hearts everytime you walk through the door and see how everybody talks about how everyt  See full.

this reminds me of something i scribbled awhile ago on slow things :-)... Meandering leads to perfection - Lao Tzu :-) Come walk with me awhile no no don't hand me your excuses- i'll drop them on the floor (i'm clumsy like that) and they will break into a hundred hard-to-put-together-pieces and then you will have no more excuses at all- so you really might as well come walk with me now for awhile- since we're all on our way to perfection anyhow-and this moment you're holding was meant for meandering (a wonderful word that) and what it means is being very not in a hurry very willing to explore what's around the next bend and the next and the next and what a wonderful way is that to live in this world (a wonderful world this) know it is a gift to have that kind of time that kind of trust the time and trust that old people and children have and so do puppies the time and trust to smile with their hearts everytime you walk through the door and see how everybody talks about how everything these days is instant- everything from coffee to communication- but what i want to know is what about compassion? what about closeness? what about conversations sitting on the steps of the verandah and watching the clouds for the shape of a familiar face? i like slow things things that take more than an instant and allow you to blink without missing too much things that let you tilt your head to one side and look at them from different angles without disappearing on you and childhood is a slow thing- especially if you were a child in India summers of such spectacular sameness stretching before you like a small eternity dreaming through sultry summer nights waking to sultrier summer days where Time is a cast-off toy no longer important or interesting each day a measure of cheerful monotony and other slow things are buffalos who walk with unhurried magnificence gleaming black from the water they walk along the red ridge of earth next to the mainroad and have a way of looking down their distinguished noses at you and your workaday haste a leisurely long-lashed gaze that makes your breathlessness seem suddenly Undignified (because you see there is nothing more bafflingly dignified then a freshly bathed buffalo) bullock carts are slow too but they always make you a little sad such patient white faces with beautiful blackrimmed eyes nodding side to side in choiceless agreement under the heavy wooden yoke no body should have to work that hard without knowing why no body should be hit like that made to hurt like that with such impossibly high mountains of hay it makes a scratchy sweetsmelling sound and in the shade underneath the wooden cart a dirty hammock that would seem more fun if you weren't so worried about the bullock (someone's asleep inside) what else is slow is the lotus blooming because when i wake up she is shut and still sleeping- and there is no way i say to myself- there is simply no way that flower is going to get up and get ready in time for the day and i still haven't figured out how she does it so slowly that I can't see it happening and so fast that she's on time every time and if anyone's late it's flowergazing me and then there is too the slow of wisdom that comes sometimes not in a bright flash but in measured out moments strung together- wisdom that travels on foot and arrives much the same way- oh and the slow of silence the slow of companionship and the slow of the milkman who while he waits for you on the doorstep with his frothfilled bucket will spill a little milk on the ground for a small brown dog i like slow things things that bravely insist on living at the speed-of-life and not a split second faster though as the years grow you older that speed can seem to increase and there comes that imprecise moment when Time who for as long as you've known him has run on his hands (one hand shorter than the other but somehow he's managed to trundle along) Time gets up off his hands dusts off his palms shoots you such a challenging look of pity-and starts to run Catch-Me-If-You-Can such a sly thief- Time- and poets down the ages have hurled at him their graceful accusations but the guilty remains largely unabashed and decidely unrepentant and does it really matter- because- what do you want with so many possessions anyway? (no you don't have to answer that...yet) and lullabys are slow slowsung through the centuries under countless skies and in them all the loving poignancy pointed out by a man who might have been peter pan who once said little boys should never to be sent to bed because they always wake up a day older (and this you'll have to admit is true) and what else is slow is peeling pomegranates that eventually will give up their hoarde edible rubies in small whiteseeded heaps and slow too is the paperboat that doesn't pretend to have any purpose or place to go and the person who fashions it anyway for a child to hold in both hands and set free on slow waves with the wonder of one who has not yet learned to ask of this world- yes but what is your Point? there is a slow slowdawning realization that comes to a chosen few in this world that there is after all a brilliant point to pointlessness that belongs to the rainbow and the logic of the rose and speaking of roses there once was a boy called The Little Prince who once told a haughty rose that she was 'Beautiful but empty' and maybe what he was trying to get at was that beauty cannot hold anything on its own and that nothing means anything until it is cupped between the palms of love and yes he was an unusual boy The Little Prince what else is slow is writing a letter to some one who is far-away and thought-of writing it with black penstroke on white paper that carries the particular way you dot your i curve your c circle your o cross your t on paper unlined as the brow of a child so your sentences are an unsteady caravan making their way like uncertain nomads across a vast desert of fresh page meandering towards the palmtreed oasis of perfection in the quiet understanding of another -much like this.

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On Feb 6, 2007 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
I sent my comments to several friends but I added, since they know me: "Ifear you will not hear me because my actions speak so loudly." Conrad P.

On Feb 6, 2007 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Dean's Sluyters, The Zen Commandments. I have read the quote at least six times in the last three or four weeks. I have been meditating for over 15 years and I am still somewhat surprised that I am still often in a rush in an unaware way. Today's quote reminds me of this favorite Dean Sluyter quote from his page 15. He says: "So the way to boundless experience is not to seek boundless experience or any particular experience beyond whatever presents itself. This non-seeking does take practice, not to get "better" at "doing" it, since there is no doing involved, but to give our old seeking habit some road upon which to run out of gas. Sooner or later, we give up and just let the infinite (or whatever you want to call it) engulf us. By definition, the infinite is everywhere and everything; ocean can never be absent from even the smallest drop of wave. We've simply been distracted from it by our constant compulsion to look somewhere else f  See full.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Dean's Sluyters, The Zen Commandments. I have read the quote at least six times in the last three or four weeks. I have been meditating for over 15 years and I am still somewhat surprised that I am still often in a rush in an unaware way. Today's quote reminds me of this favorite Dean Sluyter quote from his page 15. He says: "So the way to boundless experience is not to seek boundless experience or any particular experience beyond whatever presents itself. This non-seeking does take practice, not to get "better" at "doing" it, since there is no doing involved, but to give our old seeking habit some road upon which to run out of gas. Sooner or later, we give up and just let the infinite (or whatever you want to call it) engulf us. By definition, the infinite is everywhere and everything; ocean can never be absent from even the smallest drop of wave. We've simply been distracted from it by our constant compulsion to look somewhere else for something more.” Thank you Nipun for continuing to provide inspiration. With gratitude. Conrad P. Pritscher

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On Feb 6, 2007 phuong wrote:
As a person interested in and training in somatic therapies, I like to turn my reflections toward what's being lived in my body.

I notice that when I rush at work, I walk with my head far ahead of my body. At airports, I notice this same pattern in others.

When my head is jutted far ahead of my chest and legs, I seem to act more aggressively and with a narrower focus. When lucky, I have a moment to gather my breath and slow my gait. My head then sits on top of my chest. As I breathe more fully, my head becomes connected to my heart and my belly. At this juncture, I have the full intelligence of my gut, my heart, and my brain working together. My decisions and acts are more coherent. I feel whole again.

I love Honore's reference-- "tempo giusto"-- to music. In Plum Village, I had the honor of hearing Thay Thich Nhat Hanh say, "When you are mindful, the act of breathing is like playing the violin."

In that spirit, let us make music!

On Feb 6, 2007 Marsha wrote:
This reminds me of the Taoist principle of "wu wei" ~ Action in the inaction and inaction in the action" ~

On Feb 6, 2007 P. Sasidhar wrote:

It is a very interesting piece of observation on fast and slow behaviour/response of an individual to meet the present day challenges. The ‘thoughts’ by Carl Honore bring out the fact that there are two sides of an individual: Internal and external. One can be fast or slow in both manifestations. There is no clear prescription, whether one should be fast or slow in both facets viz., internal and external. I believe that whether one is fast or slow, one has to be always cool and collective. One should strive for calm, careful, receptive, intuitive, patient, reflective and quality-over-quantity in all situations. The balance in physical sense of ‘slow and fast’ is very essential as Carl Honore observed. But at mental plane all the qualities he observed for ‘Slow’ should apply equally well in ‘Fast’ scenario also. To extend my reasoning little further, in a game of chess, a computer plays the game at a fast pace but demonstrates all the qualities of a slow and cool performer yet it is fas  See full.

It is a very interesting piece of observation on fast and slow behaviour/response of an individual to meet the present day challenges. The ‘thoughts’ by Carl Honore bring out the fact that there are two sides of an individual: Internal and external. One can be fast or slow in both manifestations. There is no clear prescription, whether one should be fast or slow in both facets viz., internal and external. I believe that whether one is fast or slow, one has to be always cool and collective. One should strive for calm, careful, receptive, intuitive, patient, reflective and quality-over-quantity in all situations. The balance in physical sense of ‘slow and fast’ is very essential as Carl Honore observed. But at mental plane all the qualities he observed for ‘Slow’ should apply equally well in ‘Fast’ scenario also. To extend my reasoning little further, in a game of chess, a computer plays the game at a fast pace but demonstrates all the qualities of a slow and cool performer yet it is fast aggressive, analytical, active, unstressed, patient and not missing the aspect of quality-over-quantity. I am no way concerned with the result of the game but only prefer to emulate those super cool ‘Borg’ like attitude. A similar task is performed at different speeds by two individuals in a stress free, calm mode would lead better life. The right speed is different for both individuals.Kudos to Carl Honore. Sasidhar

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