Monday, 5 October 2009


“Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafering heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars?”
What would the present generation, and I mean it in a broad sense, as the generation savouring the fruits of technical advancement, be defined as? As the slave of speed, worshiper of instant gratification or as 'a generation of ‘dancers’ that is people wanting to be seen, for whom life is a perpetual show emptied of every intimacy and every joy?'
We decry rampant consumerism, the destruction of our environment, the vulgar display of wealth that is becoming our national culture, books written by foreigners that present a perspective alien to ours and a comment made by a stranger that rankles us. We rant and rage about it all on our blogs, on facebook, on twitter; opening multiple tabs while cursing the slow broadband speed. And the rest of the time we are busy uploading photographs of the sushi we ate last night, the taxi we took to the airport, our cluttered office desk, the holiday we had in Greece, our baby who is a few hours old. In fact, our entire day is consumed by performing a series of quick dance steps flitting from one move to the other while watching our friends, fans and followers performing a similar dance of their own devoid of not just intimacy but also meaning.
Why are we consumed by this need to display every mundane incidence of our lives? And why this hurry, this rush to upload it, tweet it, blog about it? What will the world do once it has heard about every minor detail of our day? What will we do with the hours that we save? Hurry and rush through life some more? What is it that we are hurrying away from?
In his book Slowness, Kundera writes:
There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.
A man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down.
Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.
Maybe it is time to usher in the cult of slowness. A deliberate, well-thought out act of slowness in this mad rush of show and tell that threatens to obliterate all thought and all memory and all intimacy and all joys.
There is a Czech proverb that describes this easy indolence by a metaphor: “They are gazing at God’s windows.” A person gazing at God’s window is not bored; he is happy. In our world, indolence has turned into having nothing to do, which is a completely different thing: a person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored, is constantly searching for the activity he lacks.
And in this time and age most likely to be surfing the internet in a futile search.
(All text in Italics from Slowness by Milan Kundera)


Jugular Bean said...

Perfect! There's this constant marketing that we need all of this, we need more, we need faster.

Reality: peace is in the stillness.

And at the end of the day people pay loads of money for yoga classes where they are told to slow their breath, thought and feeling.

If we could just do that instead

Anvita Lakhera said...

Totally agree. Though ironically even yoga or more specifically yoga as practiced in the West these days is also all about speed and physical postures and unfortunately less about a certain way of life.

Jugular Bean said...

:) true. The meaning of yoga (union) has been lost.