“These days, even instant gratification takes too long,” Carl Honoré joked to a roomful of TEDTalk audience.
Honoré is the author of In Praise of Slowness, a book that tries to bring back the artful style of “slowness” in our cult of speed. Honoré examines how we can channel our minds to a more productive path when confronted with information overload.
Our brains simply haven’t evolved fast enough to take advantage of the avalanche of data, a problem all the more urgently relevant today. In his book, Honoré writes:
We complain about the lack of time, yet we constantly seek stimulations that detract us from our main goals. When we live in an age where a diverse palette of stimulations lures us – “media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age” — it becomes a chore to focus on anything longer than 30 seconds. There’s something unsettling about the constant craving for the new without any regard for the things we already have.
I’m personally guilty of this too. In the time it took for me to draft this article, I got up to boil a pot of coffee, watched an episode of Friends, made an omelette, and cleaned my room twice. So many things to do, in so little time!
While he encourages us to slow down, Honoré says the book isn’t a “declaration of war against speed”. He concedes that technology has made our life more convenient — “Who wants to live without the Internet or jet travel?” The problem comes when speed and stimulation become addictions, and when a society of improving conveniences becomes one of “turbo-capitalism.”
“The problem is that our love of speed, our obsession with doing more and more in less and less time, has gone too far,” Honoré writes, “it has turned into an addiction, a kind of idolatry.”
This idea is encapsulated by the timeless truism: everything in moderation. It’s fine to rush when it makes sense, but don’t forget that the unconditional worship of “faster is better” often makes us forget that there’s a price to pay.
Honoré writes that when we rush through our days, we not only fail to connect with new ideas, we fail to connect with people around us. “Inevitably, a life of hurry can become superficial when we rush,” says Honoré, “we skim the surface, and fail to make real connections with the world or other people.”
“All the things that bind us together and make life worth living—community, family, friendship—thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time.”
Mohatma Ghandi echoed the sentiment six decades earlier: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
A life of fast and furious can also damage children, who most of all need time to play and mess around in a creation fashion.
So what are we suppose to do? Do we just throw our hands up and give up all the technology that make our lives faster and infinitely more convenient? Not so, says Honoré. The key is to enjoy the fast conveniences of modern life, but slow down occasionally to do things you enjoy:
In a way, the Slow movement ties nicely together with being mindful, which has surprising benefits such as improving your decision-making skills, decreasing high blood pressure, and making you more attractive. “Slowing down” is really another way of giving your complete and sincere attention to current moment. Focus on the now to the point that you enjoy every bit of time. Life is incredibly short, and some want to rush through it, thinking it allows them to accomplish more and more. But they have it backwards: when life is limited, take the time to slow down and enjoy what you’re doing. After all, this is all the time that you get.
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