If you’re reading this, ask yourself: What is my state of mind? How relaxed and present am I? Am I focused on each and every word, or am I feeling rushed and thinking about the laundry that needs doing or the phone call I have to make?
How you answer such questions says a lot about where you fall on the here and now spectrum. Of course, it’s not news that many of us struggle to stay put in the moment, or that these days we’re bombarded with tips and instructions on how to slow down and be more focused and engaged.
One of the more compelling antidotes to our chronic busyness and distractedness is the Slow Movement, which originated in Italy in 1986 when a local established the Slow Food movement in response to the entry of fast food into his community.
Since then, Slow Food has expanded into 132 countries including Australia. It has also extended far beyond food into every sphere of human activity. An expert on the topic is Carl Honore whose book In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed became a best-seller. Honore will be presenting at Happiness & Its Causes 2013 and is talking here about the phenomenon.
As he explains, “slow food is just the tip of an enormous iceberg.” There are now movements for slow technology, slow sex, slow parenting, slow education, slow fashion, slow travel, slow libraries, slow cities, indeed slow movements for pretty much any and everything. And that’s the point. “No one owns it … you just take the idea and put it into practice.
“I think it’s reached a stage now where we have become speed junkies. Where we find it very hard to step away from the treadmill of acceleration, and we’re constantly marinaded in distraction and stimulation and activity.”
Honore says that even more worryingly, when we are forced to unplug, instead of delighting in our moments of silence, we freak out. “We fidget and panic, and start shifting around looking for something else to plug … that void … I think that we’ve kind of lost the ability just to stop and to reflect and to be quiet and still.”
One criticism of the Slow Movement is that it’s very bourgeois, a pastime that’s only ever going to be within the reach of the educated affluent. Honore begs to differ. “If you’re thinking of hand-gathered truffles from the Italian forests outside Milan, not everybody is ever going to be able to afford that type of slow delicacy.
“But the other end of that slow food spectrum is anyone, on any income, can go into a supermarket and buy some dried pasta, a few tomatoes, a piece of garlic, go home and make a pasta for a family of four, sit around the table with the television switched off and have a conversation.
“Ultimately I think slow is a state of mind. It’s about how you use time. And about how you approach every moment of the day. Do you arrive at every task thinking, ‘How can I do this as quickly as possible?’ Or do you think, ‘How do I do this as well as possible? How do I get the most out of it?’”