The New York Times last week ran an article on artisans who practice “Slow Design.” Like the Slow Food movement, the Slow Design movement is based on using local “ingredients” (e.g., wool from local sheep or used items) to create objects that are socially and environmentally sustainable, as well as handcrafting items in reaction to mass production and mass marketing.
“The time is now ripe for trying to formalize this slow revolution,” the founder of the World Institute of Slowness told the Times.
It’s a great idea and, as it turns out, it dovetails with a whole bunch of other slow ideas, including Slow Homes and Slow Cities. But the key quote in the article, for me, was from Carol Honore, author of In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed. “Sometimes it’s more of a click in attitude than anything else,” he says.
Indeed. I love the idea of slow food (especially when my husband — a very fine cook — has the time to cook it). And as someone who comes from a long line of carpenters and textile artists, I likewise love the idea of slow design. But in order to create (and enjoy) such objects meaningfully, we all have decide that slowing down is actually a good thing on a daily basis — not just another trendy idea that we buy into by purchasing expensive handcrafted, locally grown goods.
Numerous studies over the last few years have shown that people who rush, multi-task, or try to respond to many stimuli at once perform less well on various cognitive tests than those who go more slowly. But for a lot of us, the pile of work to be done is way too big for a normal 8-hour day. As a result, we hurry through our tasks, reply to emails until midnight, answer work calls when we should be helping the kids with homework, and then lose sleep over what a lousy job we’re doing on all fronts.
(Slow) Food for Thought
What if, just what if, we all could find small areas in which to sloooow dooown throughout the day? Maybe it’s taking a five-minute break to to sit outside and feel the sunshine. Maybe it’s closing your eyes at your desk for a few minutes and concentrating on your breathing. Maybe it’s browsing in your local book store during your lunch break. Maybe it’s committing to sitting down every night and really talking to your children about their day in a focused way. Maybe on the weekend it’s taking time to sit on your back porch and just day dream for a while. Maybe it’s taking three minutes at the start of that super-charged meeting about a project that’s going awry to ask your client how she is — and I mean asking her with sincerity and then listening with your full attention.
What would slow your life down?