Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book quotes and notes: In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore

Reviewed earlier here.


A mixture of notes and quotes from In Praise of Slow:
  • In 1982 the American physician Larry Dorsey coined the term "time sickness", referring to the individuals belief that time is getting away from them and there isn't enough of it, and that you must pedal forever faster to keep up.
  • The Japanese have a term for death from overwork: karoshi.
  • On children: "Living like high-powered grown-ups leaves little time for the stuff that childhood is supposed to be about: messing around with friends, playing without adult supervision, daydreaming."
  • "We have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting down the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts". 
  • "I read the paper while watching TV - and find that I get less out of both"
  • "Le fast thinker" is term created by a French sociologist for someone who can, without skipping a beat, summon up a glib answer to any question. 
  • We expect fastness from others and others expect it from us. 
  • "People are born and married, and live and die, in the midst of an uproar so frantic that you would think they would go mad of it" - William Dead Howells 1907 
  • "When things happens too fast, nobody can be certain about anything, about anything at all, not even about himself" - Milan Kundera, Slowness
  •  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, towns squares may have had mechanical clocks but each town effectively had it's own time zone (who cares if the only clock in town is running slow or fast). However, when the Industrial Revolution took hold, specialisation, organisation, and competition made time central to the operation of enterprise. From this point on, clock worship took off. With specialisation and production lines, a factory depends on people working to strict schedules. Honore talks about speed to market being key (I think this was less of a factor than the points mentioned earlier).  
  • By 1855 most of Britain had accepted GMT as the standard reference time. In 1884, 27 nations also adopted GMT as the prime meridian. By 1911 most of the world was on the same clock.
  • "To teach workers the new time discipline demanded by modern capitalism, the ruling classes set about promoting punctuality as a civic duty and a moral virtue, while denigrating slowness and tardiness as cardinal sins."
  • The average New Yorker "always walks as if he had a good dinner before him, and a bailiff behind him" - 19th century observer.  
  • Nietzsche detested a growing culture of "...of hurry, of indecent and perspiring haste, which wants to get everything done at once".
  • Part of the solution may lie in how we think about time - in Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, time is cyclical vs a one-shot deal. 
  • Consumerism is another powerful incentive to go fast and cram as much experience and consumption as possible. 
  • Technology is a false friend. e.g. washing machine and vacuum led to rising standards of cleanliness. E-mail brings. Technology has let work seep into every part of our lives. My thought: need to use tech discriminately to get the most out of it.
  • As well as glittering careers, we want to take art courses, work out at the gym, read the newspaper and every book on the bestseller list, eat out with friends, go clubbing, play sports, watch hours of television, listen to music, spend time with the family, go to the cinema, go on holidays...and maybe even do some meaningful volunteer work. "The result is a growing disconnect between what we want from life and what we can realistically have, which feeds the sense that there is never enough time."
  • "For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down" - Lily Tomlinson
  •  "(Our) thoughts, feelings, and loves are a whirlwind. Everywhere life is rushing insanely like a cavalry charge ... Everything around a man jumps, dances, gallops in a movement out of phase with his own" - Octave Mirabeau
  • OED on "Slow" definition: "not understanding readily, uninteresting, not learning easily, tedious, slack, sluggish". It is a dirty word. 
  • When people moan they are so busy and so run off their feet, they often mean to imply they live important, energetic and significant lives.
  • Working less often means working better. ILO shows that workers from Belgium, France and Norway are more productive than workers from the US.
  • Doing things slowly, like cooking, helps to re-ground the individual and manage the superficiality of urban life. Also, note that when eating, it does no good to eat too fast. It takes the brain 15 minutes to register the signal that you are full up.
  • On the Slow movement 'Citta Slow': "the movement's core idea - that we need to take some of the speed and stress out of urban living - is feeding into a global trend."
  • People think more creatively when they are relaxed, calm and unhurried, free from stress. Eureka moments seldom come in an office-environment. 

  • On meditation:

    "The meditation clearly has an effect, though, even on the fastest, most stress-addled mind. I feel wonderfully mellow at the end of the first evening. And as the weekend progresses, I begin to slow down without even trying. By Saturday night, I notice that I am taking more time to eat and brush my teeth. I have started walking, instead of running, up the stairs. I am more mindful of everything - my body, its movements, the food I eat, the smell of the grass outside, the colour of the sky. By Sunday night, even the meditation itself is starting to seem withing reach. My mind is learning to be quiet and still for longer. I feel less impatient and hurried. I am so relaxed I do not want to leave. Without my realising it, my brain has also been engaged in some very useful Slow Thinking. By the end of the weekend, ideas for work are bursting up from my subconscious mind like fish from a lake."

  • "Speed can be fun, productive and powerful and we would be poorer without it. What the world needs ... is a middle path, a recipe for marrying 'la dolce vita' with the dynamism of the information age. The secret is balance; instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Somewhere in between. ..One way to make time for Slowness is to make time for activities that defy acceleration - meditation, knitting, gardening, yoga, painting, reading, walking .."    ...."It is true that some manifestations of the Slow philosophy ...do not fit every budget. But most do ...(and) simply resisting the urge to hurry is free."

No comments: