Day 763: Life In The Slow Lane

originally published February 1, 2014

I’m going to type this one nice and slow. For as much as I yearn for the sweet, chewy nougat of the weekend’s potential liberation from routine and obligation, I feel that every letter of today’s prose should be savored, tasted, maybe given a little velvet pillow in the chamber of my memory. “Life moves pretty fast these days. Sometimes you’ve got to slow it down.” I think I heard that in a mattress commercial once. 

It’s hard to argue the fact that our society leans on its frenetic pace like a cold chrome crutch. Where once expediency and a perpetual gust of haste was required to propel us through the Industrial Revolution, those habits have sunk beneath the epidermis of production and melded with the deep tissue of capitalism. Can the rapid-fire, 25-words-or-less blitzkrieg behavior be stripped from some aspect of our lives? Can’t we all just slow the hell down? 

That question has been answered with a definitive (albeit drawn-out) “YES” by a number of movements that are subversively prodding at our hurried madness from the inside. Collectively they are known as the Slow Movement, and with a little creativity and a whole lot of patience, it just might save your sanity. 

It all begins with Carlo Petrini, an Italian politician and activist who took aim at the 1986 opening of a McDonalds near the Spanish Steps in Rome. It wasn’t so much the spread of corporate culture to that historic neighborhood (though I’m sure that didn’t tickle his fancy either), but rather the sorry excuse for nourishment that passed into his countrymen’s innards beneath those golden arches. Carlo wasn’t fooled by the flimsy strips of lettuce or the flavorless reconstituted onions upon the Big Mac; he knew the fast-food juggernaut required an extreme opponent. Naturally, he called it ‘Slow Food’. 

Slow Food isn’t about dining on food that simply takes longer to brew into something edible in a restaurant kitchen. Slow food is local food, traditional food, the kind of stuff you might expect to dine on in a small, picturesque Italian commune such as Bra, which happens to be where Carlo Petrini’s movement is headquartered. But you don’t need to track down imported tomatoes or herbs grown in Petrini’s greenhouse; the idea is to think locally, wherever you are. The grassroots organization has spread like organic jam around the world, with regional headquarters in New York, London, and all over Europe and Australia. It’s a delicious concept, but the Slow scenario doesn’t come to a halt upon the tines of your fork… 

Slow Fashion offers the view that this year’s hottest styles and most ubiquitous brand name garments are not necessarily the optimum threads to cloak your body. Kate Fletcher of England’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion came up with the phrase as a means of combatting the mass-produced, assembly-line wardrobe selections that keep us flocking to our local Old Navy, Walmart, or Big Bruce’s SuperWarehouse Of What Everyone Else Is Wearing. To tie her cause neatly with Carlo’s, she has dubbed that sort of clothing ‘McFashion’. 

To take part in the Slow Fashion crusade, all you need to do is support local clothing manufacturers, swing through the second-hand shops to add someone else’s vintage cast-offs to your closet, and even slap together your own duds if you’ve got the chops. Will this make you a perennial billboard for hipster-wear? Perhaps. But it’s still a score for successful Slowness. 

Slow Parenting is a parenting philosophy that doesn’t make me cringe, which is a wonderful thing in this world of everyone’s-a-winner, never-say-no parenting styles for raising a generation of little assholes. Slow parenting simply suggests that perhaps kids don’t need to be embroiled in swimming lessons, soccer practice, karate, clavichord lessons, Boy Scouts, Young Republicans club, parkour training, speed-knitting and organic juicing classes, all on the same Saturday afternoon. Let kids relax a little, explore the world, maybe let their imaginations give them something to do for a while. 

I like this idea, though I’d never advocate leaping in with both your kid’s feet. As with anything, there is something to be learned by sneaking the right dosage of this philosophy into how you go about parenting. Lessons are good, team sports are valuable, but the kid shouldn’t need to spend an hour a week setting up his calendar app in his iPhone to figure out when he’ll have time to play in his room. 

Also, don’t buy your kid an iPhone. 

Slow Art, which is woven with the concepts of slow cinema and slow photography, suggests that perhaps scooting past a few hundred pieces in a massive gallery is not the best way to maximize the act of feeding one’s soul. Art is everywhere around us – or it should be if you’re in the right places – and it’s easy to scan a print and move on without giving it much thought. Slow Art expects the viewer to pause and pay attention to the little details. 

Art in this style serves the dual purpose of rewarding our intrinsic love of aesthetic by providing new discoveries with each subsequent look, as well as training us to smack the pause button when we encounter any piece of contemplative beauty in the world. With Slow Photography, its curators aim to craft with painstaking manual technique rather than post-production touch-ups. Slow Cinema leans on the long take, allowing the organic qualities within the frame to ooze its life into the movie experience. 

No matter which approach, the lesson remains pretty much the same. 

Oh yes, there is a Slow Sex movement. One company that aims to promote this is OneTaste, founded around the crack of the century in San Francisco. They offer retreats, workshops and boundary-breaking classes in which you can gather with other couples and learn the techniques of orgasmic meditation and mindful sexuality. Yes, you’ll be in a room with a bunch of strangers, speaking frankly and honestly about sensitive and intimate topics, and doing your best not to look around the room and imagine each of them skronking with one another. 

Though chances are you’ll totally do that. 

Orgasmic meditation is performed by two people. It is not just another term for tantra, and from what I’ve read it appears to have the same goals as the other movements in the world of Slow – appreciation of the moment, deriving pleasure from experience, and overriding the instinct to feed the rapid-fire demands of our attention spans. 

I would consider myself a definite supporter of the Slow movement in all its forms, though I’ll freely admit that I do so in thought and word more than in action. I can’t see anything but benefits to adopting as much of these philosophies as possible, I just have to figure out how to weave them in with my daily obligations and the bustle of an unflinching routine. 

Perhaps when I can find the time… 

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