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In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed

by

In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter One Do Everything Faster We affirm that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. — "Futurist Manifesto, 1909

What is the very first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Draw the curtains? Roll over to snuggle up with your partner or pillow? Spring out of bed and do ten push-ups to get the blood pumping? No, the first thing you do, the first thing everyone does, is check the time. From its perch on the bedside table, the clock gives us our bearings, telling us not only where we stand vis-à -vis the rest of the day, but also how to respond. If it's early, I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep. If it's late, I spring out of bed and make a beeline for the bathroom. Right from that first waking moment, the clock calls the shots. And so it goes, on through the day, as we scurry from one appointment, one deadline, to the next. Every moment is woven into a schedule, and wherever we look — the bedside table, the office canteen, the corner of the computer screen, our own wrists — the clock is ticking, tracking our progress, urging us not to fall behind.

In our fast-moving modern world, it always seems that the time-train is pulling out of the station just as we reach the platform. No matter how fast we go, no matter how cleverly we schedule, there are never enough hours in the day. To some extent, it has always been so. But today we feel more time pressure than ever before. Why? What makes us different from our ancestors? If we are ever going to slow down, we must understand why we accelerated in the first place, why the world got so revved up, so tightly scheduled. And to do that, we need to start at the very beginning,by looking at our relationship with time itself.

Mankind has always been in thrall to time, sensing its presence and power, yet never sure how to define it. In the fourth century, St. Augustine mused, "What is time then? If nobody asks me, I know; but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I do not know." Sixteen hundred years later, after wrestling with a few pages of Stephen Hawking, we understand exactly how he felt. Yet even if time remains elusive, every society has evolved ways of measuring its passage. Archaeologists believe that over twenty thousand years ago European ice age hunters counted the days between lunar phases by carving lines and holes in sticks and bones. Every great culture in the ancient world — the Sumerians and the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Chinese, the Mayans and the Aztecs — created its own calendar. One of the first documents to roll off the Gutenberg printing press was the "Calendar of 1448."

Once our ancestors learned to measure years, months and days, the next step was to chop time into smaller units. An Egyptian sundial dating from 1500 BC is one of the oldest surviving instruments for dividing the day into equal parts. Early "clocks" were based on the time it took for water or sand to pass through a hole, or for a candle or a dish of oil to burn. Timekeeping took a great leap forward with the invention of the mechanical clock in thirteenth-century Europe. By the late 1600s, people could accurately measure not only hours, but also minutes and seconds.

Survival was one incentive for measuring time. Ancient civilizations used calendars to work out when to plant and harvest crops. Right from the start, though,timekeeping proved to be a double-edged sword. On the upside, scheduling can make anyone, from peasant farmer to software engineer, more efficient. Yet as soon as we start to parcel up time, the tables turn, and time takes over. We become slaves to the schedule. Schedules give us deadlines, and deadlines, by their very nature, give us a reason to rush. As an Italian proverb puts it: Man measures time, and time measures man.

By making daily schedules possible, clocks held out the promise of greater efficiency — and also tighter control. Yet early timepieces were too unreliable to rule mankind the way the clock does today. Sundials did not work at night or in cloudy weather, and the length of a sundial hour varied from day to day thanks to the tilt of the earth. Ideal for timing a specific act, hourglasses and water clocks were hopeless at telling the time of day. Why were so many duels, battles and other events in history held at dawn? Not because our ancestors were partial to early rises, but because dawn was the one time that everyone could identify and agree on. In the absence of accurate clocks, life was dictated by what sociologists call Natural Time. People did things when it felt right, not when a wristwatch told them to. They ate when hungry, and slept when drowsy. Nevertheless, from early on, telling time went hand in hand with telling people what to do.

As long ago as the sixth century, Benedictine monks lived by a routine that would make a modern time manager proud. Using primitive clocks, they rang bells at set intervals throughout the day and night to hurry each other from one task to the next, from prayer to study to farming to rest, and back to prayer again. Whenmechanical clocks began springing up in town squares across Europe, the line between keeping time and keeping control blurred further. Cologne offers a revealing case study. Historical records suggest that a public clock was erected in the German city around 1370. In 1374, Cologne passed a statute that fixed the start and end of the workday for labourers, and limited their lunch break to "one hour and no longer."

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060545789
Subtitle:
How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed
Author:
Honore, Carl
Author:
HEALING BEYOND THE BODY and REINVENTING MEDICINE</i>
Publisher:
HarperOne
Subject:
Time management
Subject:
Popular Culture - General
Subject:
General Current Events
Subject:
Popular Culture
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20040413
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.72x5.82x1.14 in. 1.00 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Business » Time Management
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Simple Living
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed Used Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages HarperSanFrancisco - English 9780060545789 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A former 'speedaholic,' an award-winning Canadian journalist advocates living a slower, more measured existence, in virtually every area, a philosophy he defines as 'balance.' Honoré's personal wake-up call came when he began reading one-minute bedtime stories to his two-year-old son in order to save time. The absurdity of this practice dramatized how he, like most of the world, was caught up in a speed culture that probably began with the Industrial Revolution, was spurred by urbanization and increased dramatically with 20th-century advances in technology. The author explores, in convincing and skillful prose, a quiet revolution known as 'the slow movement,' which is attempting to integrate the advances of the information age into a lifestyle that is marked by an 'inner slowness' that gives more depth to relationships with others and with oneself. Although there is no official movement, Honoré credits Carol Petrini, an Italian culinary writer and founder of the slow food movement in Italy, with spearheading the trend to using fresh local foods, grown with sustainable farming techniques that are consumed in a leisurely manner with good company. The author also explores other slow movements, such as the practice of Tantric sex (mindful sexual union as a road to enlightenment), complementary and alternative medicine, new urbanism and the importance of leisure activities like knitting, painting and music. For the overprogrammed and stressed, slow and steady may win the race. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Honoré shows us the benefits of slowness, with chapters on food, transportation, meditation and exercise, medicine, sex, work, and parenting....[T]his book presents ideas and resources that will be new to most readers."
"Review" by , "A persuasive case against mindless speed and an intriguing array of ways 'to make the moment last.'"
"Review" by , "A friendly and intelligent guide for harried types looking to change gear at home, work or play."
"Review" by , "Honoré's engaging report should be embraced by those with quality-of-life and environmental concerns."
"Review" by , "It is worth allowing its subversive message to sink slowly in so it has a chance of changing your life."
"Review" by , "If you sometimes feel engulfed by the mad pace of modern life — In Praise of Slowness could prove life-saving."
"Review" by , "Part reportage and part manifesto, In Praise of Slowness is an engaging, well-written journey into the various ways that people around the globe have attempted to live more patiently."
"Synopsis" by , This incisive but leisurely exploration of the emerging paradigm of slowness in the face of today's cult of speed argues that "slower is better."
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