In Praise of Slowness

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-03-24
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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We live in the age of speed. The world around us moves faster than ever before. We strain to be more efficient, to cram more into each minute, each hour, each day. Since the Industrial Revolution shifted the world into high gear, the cult of speed has pushed us to abreaking point. Consider these facts: Americans spend 40 percent less time with their children than they did in the 1960s; the average American spends seventy-two minutes of every day behind the wheel of a car; a typical business executive now loses sixty-eight hours a year to being put on hold; and American adults currently devote on average a meager half hour per week to making love. Living on the edge of exhaustion, we are constantly reminded by our bodies and minds that the pace of life is spinning out of control. In Praise of Slowness traces the history of our increasingly breathless relationship with time, and tackles the consequences and conundrum of living in this accelerated culture of our own creation. Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time-sickness? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down? Realizing the price we pay for unrelenting speed, people all over the world are reclaiming their time and slowing down the pace -- and living happier, more productive, and healthier lives as a result. A Slow revolution is taking place. But here you will find no Luddite calls to overthrow technology and seek a pre-industrial utopia. This is a modern revolution, championed by e-mailing, cell phone-using lovers of sanity. The Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word -- balance. People are discovering energy and efficiency where we may have least expected -- in slowing down. In this engaging and entertaining exploration, award-winning journalist and rehabilitated speedaholic Carl Honore details our perennial love affair with efficiency and speed in a perfect blend of anecdotal reportage, history, and intellectual inquiry. In Praise of Slowness is the first comprehensive look at the worldwide Slow movements making their way into the mainstream -- in offices, factories, neighborhoods, kitchens, hospitals, concert halls, bedrooms, gyms, and schools. Defining a movement that is here to stay, this spirited manifesto will make you completely rethink your relationship with time.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Age of Ragep. 1
Do Everything Fasterp. 19
Slow Is Beautifulp. 37
Food: Turning the Tables on Speedp. 53
Cities: Blending Old and Newp. 85
Mind/Body: Mens Sana in Corpore Sanop. 119
Medicine: Doctors and Patiencep. 147
Sex: A Lover with a Slow Handp. 166
Work: The Benefits of Working Less Hardp. 187
Leisure: The Importance of Being at Restp. 216
Children: Raising an Unhurried Childp. 246
Conclusion: Finding the Tempo Giustop. 273
Notesp. 283
Resource Listp. 292
Acknowledgmentsp. 297
Indexp. 298
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


In Praise of Slowness
How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed

Chapter One

Do Everything Faster

We affirm that the world's magnificence has been
enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.
-- Futurist Manifesto, 1909

What is the very first thing you do when you wakeup in the morning? Draw the curtains? Roll over to snuggleup with your partner or pillow? Spring out of bed anddo ten push-ups to get the blood pumping? No, the firstthing you do, the first thing everyone does, is check thetime. From its perch on the bedside table, the clock gives usour bearings, telling us not only where we stand vis-à-visthe rest of the day, but also how to respond. If it's early, Iclose my eyes and try to go back to sleep. If it's late, I springout of bed and make a beeline for the bathroom. Rightfrom that first waking moment, the clock calls the shots.And so it goes, on through the day, as we scurry from oneappointment, one deadline, to the next. Every moment iswoven into a schedule, and wherever we look -- the bedsidetable, the office canteen, the corner of the computer screen, our own wrists -- the clock is ticking, tracking our progress,urging us not to fall behind.

In our fast-moving modern world, it always seems that thetime-train is pulling out of the station just as we reachthe platform. No matter how fast we go, no matter howcleverly we schedule, there are never enough hours in theday. To some extent, it has always been so. But today we feelmore time pressure than ever before. Why? What makes usdifferent from our ancestors? If we are ever going to slowdown, we must understand why we accelerated in the firstplace, why the world got so revved up, so tightly scheduled.And to do that, we need to start at the very beginning, bylooking at our relationship with time itself.

Mankind has always been in thrall to time, sensing itspresence and power, yet never sure how to define it. In thefourth century, St. Augustine mused, "What is time then?If nobody asks me, I know; but if I were desirous to explainit to one that should ask me, plainly I do not know."Sixteen hundred years later, after wrestling with a few pagesof Stephen Hawking, we understand exactly how he felt.Yet even if time remains elusive, every society has evolvedways of measuring its passage. Archaeologists believe thatover twenty thousand years ago European ice age hunterscounted the days between lunar phases by carving lines andholes in sticks and bones. Every great culture in the ancientworld -- the Sumerians and the Babylonians, the Egyptiansand the Chinese, the Mayans and the Aztecs -- created itsown calendar. One of the first documents to roll off theGutenberg printing press was the "Calendar of 1448."

Once our ancestors learned to measure years, months anddays, the next step was to chop time into smaller units. AnEgyptian sundial dating from 1500 BC is one of the oldestsurviving instruments for dividing the day into equal parts.Early "clocks" were based on the time it took for water orsand to pass through a hole, or for a candle or a dish of oilto burn. Timekeeping took a great leap forward with theinvention of the mechanical clock in thirteenth-centuryEurope. By the late 1600s, people could accurately measurenot only hours, but also minutes and seconds.

Survival was one incentive for measuring time. Ancientcivilizations used calendars to work out when to plant andharvest crops. Right from the start, though, timekeepingproved to be a double-edged sword. On the upside, schedulingcan make anyone, from peasant farmer to softwareengineer, more efficient. Yet as soon as we start to parcelup time, the tables turn, and time takes over. We becomeslaves to the schedule. Schedules give us deadlines, anddeadlines, by their very nature, give us a reason to rush. Asan Italian proverb puts it: Man measures time, and timemeasures man.

By making daily schedules possible, clocks held out thepromise of greater efficiency -- and also tighter control. Yetearly timepieces were too unreliable to rule mankind theway the clock does today. Sundials did not work at nightor in cloudy weather, and the length of a sundial hour variedfrom day to day thanks to the tilt of the earth. Ideal fortiming a specific act, hourglasses and water clocks werehopeless at telling the time of day. Why were so many duels, battles and other events in history held at dawn? Notbecause our ancestors were partial to early rises, but becausedawn was the one time that everyone could identify andagree on. In the absence of accurate clocks, life was dictatedby what sociologists call Natural Time. People did thingswhen it felt right, not when a wristwatch told them to. Theyate when hungry, and slept when drowsy. Nevertheless,from early on, telling time went hand in hand with tellingpeople what to do.

As long ago as the sixth century, Benedictine monkslived by a routine that would make a modern time managerproud. Using primitive clocks, they rang bells at setintervals throughout the day and night to hurry each otherfrom one task to the next, from prayer to study to farmingto rest, and back to prayer again. When mechanical clocksbegan springing up in town squares across Europe, the linebetween keeping time and keeping control blurred further.Cologne offers a revealing case study. Historical recordssuggest that a public clock was erected in the German cityaround 1370. In 1374, Cologne passed a statute that fixedthe start and end of the workday for labourers, and limitedtheir lunch break to "one hour and no longer."

In Praise of Slowness
How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed
. Copyright © by Carl Honore. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honoré
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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