Modern life is anything but slow. In fact, we perceive the lack of speed as something negative and undesirable. Speed, on the hand, is encouraged and rewarded.
We are continuously striving to do things faster. If we can do things faster, we can do more. The most common excuse for not doing something is that we have no time for it. Time is limited. Time is money. Time is precious. These are all deemed valid excuses for not doing what is not regarded as “productive” or “important”.
In deciding what to do with out time, we have developed a system for prioritizing the demands of our time.
Right on top is “work”. Selling our time and labour in exchange for money. Everything else comes second. Or third. Or fourth. Or much, much lower on the list of priorities.
Because we have to work, we have found that we have no time for much else, and because we have no time for much else, we accept that we have to purchase from others those important items we have no time for: education, health, food, drink, leisure, recreation. The list goes on and on. Thus, we have to work harder. Faster. Longer.
For the quality of those items depends largely on how much you are willing to spend. Better quality equates higher prices, more money, more work, less time for anything else.
Everywhere we look, someone is encouraging us to work even harder and faster. Most cities and town have erected clocks everywhere to inform us of time and more importantly how quickly it goes by – how little of it is left.
Companies have devises to record the time you arrive and leave for work. Government’s have laws to specify how many days you have to work to qualify for one day off.
Supermarkets have advertising material informing us of how many days are left before their specials come to an end or prices are increased again.
Life insurers leave no stone unturned to inform us that we’re getting older by the minute and that death is immanent, and that we have to do something about that now.
There is little in our daily lives, that is not quantified in time. Recorded and rewarded. Somewhere. By someone – either ourselves or someone else.
We have become slaves to our schedules. Schedules provide deadlines and deadlines provide urgency. We measure time and time measures us.
Yet, instead of giving up something to have more time for something else, we cram our lives around our schedules. We try and squeeze it all in and because we don’t really have time, we do things faster. Drive faster, walk faster, cook and eat faster, think and live faster.
We seek out modern methods and devices to help us get through life faster. Technology. Science. Pharmaceuticals. Experts. Coaches. Therapists.
We have come “velocitized” and our life credo is “do everything faster”. Darn, even our vacations are stressful!
As I write this, I am only too aware of the paradox in my own life.
I write this piece in defense of slowness, yet I have a looming deadline only a few hours away. And I still have to cook and photograph the dish and write the recipe. Then I have a meeting later this afternoon and I have set up a few interviews for later this week.
I am only too aware that my schedule is light compared to most working people out there.
If not, I have failed. For my decision to not dedicate a substantive part of my daily life to the pursuit of speed was a deliberate one.
Less speed is more time. That is my motto.
Embracing slowness was not easy. Not after many years in pursuit of speed. It requires a huge mental shift.
First, going slow does not mean you are lazy or that you are “doing nothing”, although there is some of that too. Not having deadlines does not mean you are a sloth. I just take more time doing what needs to be done. I think more, and take more time to do so. This provides me the opportunity to learn and understand.
And because I learn and understand, I can see things for what they are, and prioritise accordingly. I no longer respond to every impulse, only those that I deem truly important. These days I am busier than ever with business and creative ventures and with much greater reward, because I have time to remain focused, rest well, and try new ways.
Second, going slow is not something negative, it is positive. I do not regard myself as lazy. I do a lot – in fact, I get a lot more done than many who move at much faster speeds. I cook a healthy, nutritious meal for four in much less time it takes the working man or women to collect a take away meal for the family. I also know that some things cannot be hurried.
Slow roasting a whole pork belly takes at least three hours, no less and if you want to have the prefect roast belly of pork, that is what you have to. Any other way will mess it op. Yet seared, scored squid takes only about three minutes over insanely high heat. Any other way, and it is messed up. You see, going slow sometimes has very little to do with the lack of speed. It is about understanding what is required.
Thirdly, going slow means that time is not just money, it is so much more. Less stress. More happiness. Better health. More creativity. Less anger. More tranquility. More energy. Less tiredness. Better food. Better cooking. Higher productivity. More focus.
Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from going slow is that our lives would be poorer without speed, and that there is no sense in abandoning all forms of speed.
The key is to find the right speed for everything. Like a photographer who has to wait thirty years and then, at the decisive moment, requires only 1/2500th of a second to take the ultimate picture, we have to understand what speed is needed to achieve the ultimate result.
Way back in 1883 Paul Lafargue wrote: “Cannot the labourers understand that by over-working themselves they exhaust their own strength and that of their progeny, that they are used up and long before their time come to be incapable of any work at all, that absorbed and brutalized by this single vice they are no longer men but pieces of men, that they kill within themselves all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work.”
Someone brought me marulas from the family tree sometime ago. Another brought me duck straight from the farm. So, this week I show you how to use this fantastic fruit to make a delicious marula-glazed duck breast. My Namibian version of the classic French dish, duck a l’Orange. Bon appétit.