On Slowness

This article is about slowness — the lack of sense of speed in life, why we need it and why we don’t seem to get it.

Criminalization of slowness

Many times and many things have to be done fast. No one asks Why? Fast food, Fast design (Design Thinking), Fast Code (Lean, Sprint, Agile) all lead to bad health, eventually.

Details are lost. There is no fun. The society or the accelerationist environment of progress criminalizes for slowly done work. Slack is punished and tasks are automated. As you gain time for being fast, the joy one gets from the task is not there. The immersion is superficial and checklist-y. There is always a server or process to blame for the lack of fun. No wonder many fast jobs are no longer creative but are creativity served like Big Mc Burger.

Fast, IMO, is largely a marketed trait and not a natural, required one. Humans cannot be fast in everything, we are slow animals. Remember the last time you were expecting something to be fast. Was it at a home delivery ? Or was it running at the cost of not enjoying? Most of this ‘need for speed’ is actually not needed.

Need for Speed in the pandemic

As they say that the depth is in the details. Details seem to take more time to consume. The lowering attention span is already a pandemic fueled by the many attention kidnapping apps. Then there are all these things about reading 300 books a year, listening to 10x podcasts, and blah blah. You get that. The point is, being on the surface and consuming thing (podcasts, books, etc) does not leave time enough for that essential reflection to truly see the depth.

The pandemic seems to have increased this as well. As we all, lay trapped in a cabin, working and watching, there is a reinvention pressure. Binging to stay ahead of the Netflix buffet seems to be quite predominant. FYI, Netflix considers a viewing time for more than 2 minutes as a view. Seldom do viewers pay attention to the way the shot has been composed and lately, the directors have lost ‘that’ cinematic attention (again IMO). Many friends watch shows for several seasons only to forget what they were about. They do give a good rating.

Slowness and Learning

Many skills are best learned when we start slowly. Like slow, SLOW. As Dreyfus Model of Skills suggests, slowly copying without striving to post on instagram yet!🤭

Especially with sports, If one is training to run for a marathon, it is the ability to consistently run at slower speeds and save the boost for later. Murakami often recounts this in his book , What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It does get very irritating as we begin. My runner friend, Ben, always suggests me to run for a longer time than for longer distances or lesser times. I guess it’s the same when you learning music. The tempo is slow, but that is required for muscle memory to build up.
John Cleese talks about it in the section of his book, Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide on “Tortoise brain” and “Hare Brain”. He largely attributes the Tortoise brain to unconscious processes and the Hare brain that gets things done. Hence, we need both and not just mindless running.
So, I want to make a point that there seems to be value in not being fast all the time. Maybe a bit slow can help us all. Slow is not lazy. Fast is not all bad. A good mix of reflection, conscious consumption, and production seem to be the key. Like this beer commercial from Madrid, asking you to live without haste.

This article may seem like a rant or an observation. However, I am trying to make a case for slow. I have a simpler follow-up article on some habit or rituals, I have been experimenting with to cope with these experiences. I hope I can edit that soon and put it out.

Until then, chill. 🐢 🍻

Cheers y un abrazo,
— Rohit

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