(u;la la)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Watch my speed...

I have always been a painfully, annoyingly, slow eater. It frustrated my dad no end; my food would go cold and I would lose appetite. Our dinners were a succession of pleading marathons, running on the soundtrack of the micro-wave turning plate.

I grew up to be slow at cleaning, cooking, showering, waking up... everybody passes me out when I walk the dog and I need to book holidays to complete a basket full of ironing. I am generally slow at everything I do and I am not ashamed of it; let me say it loud and clear and slowly: I AM SLOW.

I’m fine with it because I know I can be fast at a few things: reading full novels in one go, getting ready to go out, solving puzzle games and making people laugh with some quick one-liners.

I’m also fine with it because it means I do things with precision, care and real pleasure. Well, in most cases anyway. (I’m a slow cook but my oven is bloody fast, resulting in a few carbonised meals and a lot of swearing).

What bothers me is that I feel a need to justify and protect my slowness in a world where speed is an asset, even a priority: fast broadband, TGVs, speedy deliveries, fast-foods, instant download, quick access... In all areas of our life, we want things now and we want them over and done with, so we can move on to whatever is next.

I know it is not a new thing; Technology has always been about upgrading things to make them faster, from the wheel to the washing machine, inventions compete to make our life easier. Who would want to go back to delivering messages by pony? Please, don't answer that.
But on the other hand, not everything is better faster... (who in their right mind would prefer a “quickie” over a slow, lingering night of passion?) 

In the 90's I read a book that changed my life; the author took 14 years to complete that master piece. I thought I had found my hero. I even got a tattoo for that book. When I read his consecutive books, written and published every year, I felt betrayed. He botched his work. Almost every time.
I grew up with that big word chanted over everything I did: "b√Ęcler". Botching, scamping... My father always scrutinised our activities -from handwriting to tying our shoe-laces to using a carving knife- with some gentle, threatening encouragement: "take your time, do it properly, watch what you're doing, don't go botching it, now!". Every activity apart from eating, of course...
I sometimes feel we come close to breaking the speed limit: can we really work faster, read faster, move faster, produce faster, than previous generations? There is a trend that uncovers the downfalls linked to the amount of information we are subjected to. Yes, it is staggering and I bet more than half of the people who started reading this have already clicked away before reaching the end of this paragraph! It’s not about the lack of interest or value of the content we skim through on a daily basis –if it doesn’t educate us, it usually entertains us- but more about the demands it places on our psyche. Can we truly cope with all that information that we both seek and that is force-fed to us?
The debate is intensifying, but I feel it is often ignoring that element of pace: maybe we could deal with more of everything, if we took the time... 

We never stop. Or when we do, it is because we crash.

Even when we are sick, we cannot accept that our body needs time to do its thing... “We’ll get you back on your feet in no time”. But the body is not like a train or a washing machine: it will only go so fast, no matter how much we have evolved (mutated?) over the years. Sure, we have created a plethora of drugs and appliances to help, but we are still only human, not machines. We cannot get rid of a flu in a day. It's a virus, not an app!

Same goes for the mental aspect of our input/output contribution to the world: there is a stigma attached to people who take too long to think, speak or express what they feel. They are still made fun of, they are deemed inadequate, annoying, bothersome and are ultimately left behind. And somehow, the racers are probably right: if you can’t keep up with the rest of the rat race, you are probably better off sitting it out.

We have been forced to become high achievers and heavy consumers. We want to be promoted to the top before we hit 40, we want to attend all the festivals, see all the films, visit every country in the world and be the first to tweet about it to thousands of followers.

I used to be seduced by that famous Hunter S. Thompson quote about life, you know, the one that ends with "Wow! What a Ride!”... but I know that, no matter how hard I try, I am not fast enough “to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke”...

So I think I’ll stop rushing around, trying to keep up. I'll keep Lady Thouroughness over my shoulder, frowning, whispering "don't botch that job, Delphine!"

I’ll savour my ride at my pace.