So I recently finished this amazing book. You know when you read or hear someone speak, and it puts into words all the fragmented thoughts you have about something and pieces them together, but even better than you could, ‘cause they have more information and understanding? Well this book did that to me.
Carl Honoré’s book follows him as he looks into ways that we can live more slowly, interviewing people and trying things out for himself to give his honest opinion. By slow, he doesn’t necessarily mean taking ages to do everything; he describes it more as a way of life, of making connections with people and what you’re doing. It’s about living at a pace that best serves the environment and us. I picked three sections of this movement that most stood out to me and commented on them…
Food plays an important role in the slow lifestyle. Looking at the current climate, it’s not difficult to see where we went wrong…
‘It is speed and convenience which have turned farming into the abusive, heartless place it is nowadays. Even plants are pumped with pesticides and synthetic fertilisers to boost and speed growth. Every scientific trick known to man has been deployed to cut costs, boost yields and make livestock and crops grow more quickly’
‘Produce is picked before it’s ripe, shipped in ice, then artificially ripened at the destination. This messes with the life-span, taste and quality of our food’
‘Two centuries ago, the average pig took five years to reach 130 pounds; today it hits 220 pounds after just six months and is slaughtered before it loses its baby teeth’
‘In 2003, researchers at Essex University calculated that British taxpayers spend up to £2.3 billion every year repairing the damage that industrial farming does to the environment and human health’
Reading this makes you realise that the rate at which food makes its way to our plates currently, is wreaking havoc on the planet, animals and our bodies. Buying and eating locally sourced food in season is part of living within nature’s speed and rejecting the constant availability of modern convenience. Investing in organic food and rejecting processed, GM food (as well as boycotting McDonalds and the like, who are known to fly in the face of efforts to responsibly produce food) are all massively important ways to vote with your money. Spending time waiting for the dishes to be prepared in the proper time it should take, enjoying the company, and not feeling rushed to leave a restaurant sounds amazing- it does require a mind shift however.
We are taught early on in life that time is money. Honoré writes that as soon as that link was made, a race was begun to maximise profit and cheat time. Ironically though, it does come with a cost. Many individuals and companies are learning that more time spent ‘working’ does not translate to better productivity. In fact, limiting working hours makes you more likely to be focused. The payoffs for working less hours include better wellbeing, more family time, freedom to commit to other interests, and time to reflect on work things so that you make better decisions when you are there. Coined downshifting, it is essentially about being ‘willing to forgo money in return for time and slowness’.
Small, local business ties in with this way of life. The larger the company, the more likely (generally) it is to become impersonal and strive for profit. With the world the way it is, it’s easy to forget or to downplay small business, but there is something to be said for being able to work at a manageable pace on a smaller scale, and still making enough to put dinner on the table.
‘Pleasure before profit, human beings before head office’
When it comes to free time, slow activities can reap a bunch of benefits. For instance, knitting is a personal hobby of mine and I’ve picked it up again recently with more determination than ever. I learned as a child to knit (thanks Mum!) but I have to say, I felt quite frustrated that my creations would never look very neat and that it took so long to see results. It’s tempting to only take up hobbies that yield instant results or that, to put it bluntly, aren’t very difficult. That way you can’t disappoint yourself and can create the illusion of being more productive. But the thing is, hobbies don’t need to be productive. What I now love about knitting is exactly what frustrated me about it as a child! I don’t stress about how long my projects are going to take, because I can enjoy the process and I know it’s going to take a while. The repetitive movement is therapeutic for me, and requires me to be absorbed in the process, allowing my subconscious to mull over anything I need to.
Reading is another gem of a practice to weave into your every day. Taking as little as 10 minutes to read a book can calm me a hundred times more than several hours of Netflix-watching could. It has made a huge difference to my wellbeing in recent months. Even reading In Praise of Slow and taking notes on it for this blog post has deepened my appreciation of the content. I was forced to stop and consider every section carefully which allowed me to reflect on the points, work out which ones resonated with me, and decide how i might make changes in my life.
That is by no means an exhaustive list of slow leisure activities- beit writing, exercising, gardening or sitting in cafes… whatever it is that makes you happy, that you can focus on, that you enjoy so much you don’t care how long it takes, sounds like a winner. You deserve to give yourself enough time to practice those hobbies, because they are just as important as your job.
The main point I’ll be taking away from this book is that things take as long as they take; you just have to accept that. If it’s important enough, you will be able to ‘justify the time’ and won’t begrudge yourself those activities. As a consequence, I’m especially invigorated to spend more time in the kitchen preparing food, making and growing things myself. That way I can connect to my food, be healthier and appreciate the length of time it takes to grow things.
It’s also made me think about who I want to be, and what I’m going to have to compromise in order to achieve that life. I don’t want to be someone always thinking of buying things. I don’t want to be surrounded by stuff. I want to spend my money on food and experiences, and I want to have the option of working less hours because I would rather have more time than money. So that means I’m going to have to keep struggling with that constant itch to spend and consume.
Sorry this post was so long! This was the very edited-down version! As you can tell, I enjoyed it 😛 I would highly recommend In Praise of Slow, and would love to hear what you think about it, and what other areas struck a chord with you.