Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré

"Don't just do something, sit there!"
"There is more to life than increasing its speed." -Gandhi

Great quote to start off this book, but first a little context.  This is a fairly large departure from my recent readings of the ancient Greeks.  I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a number of years, and since I've recently quit my job in part to 'slow down' and in part to explore myself, I thought this would be a good time to meander through this work.

The beginning of the book is absolutely fascinating.  Honore takes us through history to show how we became a society obsessed with speed.  He talks about the evolution of time and how many people in the beginning of our history rebelled against sundials to tell time (clock time vs. natural time), as it imposed contraints.  Then we get to the breaking up of time into segments - first hours and then eventually minutes, seconds and more finite units of time.  He details the fundamental shift (during the industrial revolution?) where corporations starting paying workers by time (hourly wage) instead of by units of output.

The book is broken down into chapters about food, cities, mind/body, medicine, sex, work, leisure and raising children.  This is where the book becomes a little self-help-ish, but you're able to take away from the book what you want and leave the rest.  Slow food is a concept that has been around for a long time, though coined in 1986.  Honore teaches us that there are now Slow cities with official guidelines which are followed by many cities throughout the world (only one in Canada).  The mind/body chapter focuses on ways to become an oasis of calm while the world is chaotic - central to Buddhist teachings.  There is talk about active sports, yoga and meditation.  Medicine talks specifically about naturopathy/homeopathy and other alternative therapies where doctors take more time with patients, listening to their concerns and coming up with individualized treatment plans.  Since I know a bit about this area, this chapter was particularly ignorant to me.  Honore tells us of his experience with tantric sex - slowing down for closeness, prolonged orgasms, etc.  Work and leisure are self explanatory, though he does mention the resurgence of slow activities such as knitting.  Honore mentions giving our children a childhood without as many activities and much time for play.

I took away a few important things from this book:

1. Slow Cities - I did further research on this concept, and I'm hoping to visit some of the recognized slow cities when I'm in Europe.
2. Gentle Reminders - I'm not sure about finding the time for Yoga, but I definitely want to try to meditate more... especially in the mornings.
3. Investigate places that emphasize work-life balance - 35 hour work week in France, Netherlands tendency towards part time employment (1/3 of their workers are part-time), etc

I think the main point that I reached from this is that you need to 'fight for your own slowness'. This is fairly intuitive, but since we cannot change all of our surroundings/environments, each person needs to cultivate their own inner peace/slow.

Anyway, the book reads like something Gladwell would write with less 'ah-ha!' moments. It's not fascinating literature, but it does contain a few nuggets of information that I'm better off knowing about.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

This does sound really interesting... I wish our culture wasn't so rush, rush, rush all the time. Just thinking about it makes me want to get on a plane and go to some other random country where life is just a bit slower paced and relaxed. I'll give this a try, even though it sounds a bit preachy.