In Praise of Slowness (2005) offers both an indictment of and an alternative to the high-speed lifestyle that plagues many people today. It examines how the rat race impacts our minds, bodies and souls – and offers concrete tips on how to slow things down.
What’s the first thing you do upon waking up? Do you pet your cat? Or open the blinds to check the weather? Nope. You look at the clock to check the time.
People have always tracked time in some way or another. As far back as the Ice Age, hunters counted the days between lunar phases, carving notches into sticks and bones. Moreover, all great ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians and the Chinese, had their own calendars.
After our ancestors learned to measure the years, months and days, they began to chop time into smaller units, like the hours of the day. The first instrument to divide the day into equal parts was an Egyptian sundial from 1500 BC.
Later, in the course of the Industrial Revolution, we became slaves to our schedules.
For the greater part of human history, life and work moved slowly, limited by the speed of our bodies and the animals we used in industry and agriculture. But since the Industrial Revolution, machines have enabled us to exceed such speed limits.
Since then, we have had to adapt to the speed of our machines, and our lifestyle has become determined by schedules.
That’s why many are joining the international Slow Movement and fighting the tyranny of time pressure.
Many people feel that a way of life dictated by clocks and machines is bound to dehumanize us. One example of this sentiment can be found in Chaplin’s Modern Times, which depicts hectic assembly line workers who move and act just like automatons, and a protagonist who’s swallowed up by a machine.
People today are joining forces to promote a slower lifestyle. For instance, every October the Society of the Deceleration of Time hosts a conference in the city of Wagrain to explore ways of slowing down.
But what does it matter that life is faster than ever? Read on to find out.