A hippie hangover
It’s no secret that I have a little bit of a hippie hangover. My wife does her best to scrape it off and dress me presentably but sometimes it still peeks out. This partly explains my fascination with the philosophy of slow. I live a pretty busy and technologically inclined life. I spend my day at work writing and analyzing and thinking about how to do things faster and better and then come home and spend my nights trying to find chargers for four computers, two robot pets, one game system, and four phones. Every now and then the thought of a slower life of splitting kindling and hoeing the back forty sounds pretty damned good.
Slow is in part a reaction against the promise that technology will cure our ills. We were promised more time, more leisure, and free and instant access to all sorts of wonderful. Wonderful is here if you want to take it and not many do. But leisure and free time? We are just as busy and harried as before and still spend a bulk of our day doing menial tasks. (Unless, of course, your menial task has been replaced by a robot who does that task cheaper and more efficiently. In that case, you are probably out of work with plenty of time to be slow.) Much, if not most of this, is our fault. My fault. There’s nothing to say that I need four phones. One served my family well when I was a kid. My sister and I, to reduce fighting, had slotted times when we could talk to friends and mom owned it the rest of the time. For the life of me I can’t remember seeing ever Dad use the thing. And somehow my parents and grandparents got along fine without investment spreadsheets or car monitors that tell their auto insurance company how fast they drive.
I have a friend who left most of this behind. He never seemed to care much about chasing girls or chugging beer through funnels but spent his weekends panning for gold or checking traps. We spent lots of time together roaming the woods around Mt. Rainier and finally, just out of high school, landed jobs in Alaska on a crab processing boat. After the fishing season, I returned to the normal track – a little school, a little work, marriage, kids, cable TV, computers, and lots of busy. He never did. He worked hard, lived on air, never married, saved and bought a small house. He laid claim to a washed out silver mine and found a new vein that a mining company was happy to purchase. He bought a few more rentals and packed up, sold everything, and moved to Alaska. Last I heard he lives in a plywood shack where he fights off bears and fills big nets with flopping salmon. Is he living the dream? Not mine. At least not on most days. It’s nice having a hospital nearby. I like political news. I like ordering books and having them show up on my doorstep two days later without teeth marks from grizzlies. True – I can live without this stuff – but they are conveniences and luxuries that I have made a choice to enjoy.
But hey! Check out this cool watch. If you are as super observant as I am you’ll see that it doesn’t have a minute hand but gives the time in units of ‘ish’ as in “four-thirtyish”. This is definitely going on my “Things I need” spreadsheet (which I’ve set up as a pivot table to compare sales outlets, costs, and time of year). This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this kind of clock. One of my favorite furniture makers was a fella named James Krenov who once made a kind of organic teardrop of wood hanging on a pole – not really my style – which he inserted a clock works into. He attached the hour hand only and then noticed that the whole thing kind of rhythmically bobbed as the clock gears whirred. He said that it slowed him down just a bit by not having to worry about the exact time. I expect that he also stood and watched the thing bob for hours on end while imbibing fermented beverages.
My other slow observation is more obtuse and I’m happy for any reader to chime in and help me articulate my feelings. I went to the South Carolina Art Museum recently to see the Georgia O’Keeffe collection. I posted something to Facebook and my son wrote to ask if O’Keeffe was the artist that Jesse and his girlfriend talked about on the TV show Breaking Bad. I don’t have the slightest clue and even have to think hard to remember who ‘Jesse’ is but – Crapomoly! – by what weird and crazy machination does my mind instantly start to whirl? There was a day, not that many years ago, when I would have shrugged my shoulders and admitted that I haven’t a clue and got on with more important things of life like weeding or baking bread. But instead I went directly to Google Search and typed in ‘Jesse girlfriend Breaking Bad artist’ and wouldn’t you know it but Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the top hits. There seems to be something sinister here. Something not right. Not only was my first inclination to dive into the internet because I don’t know some silly, useless, and stupid fact and then I discovered that enough other people are interested in this inanity that they have publicly posted the answer. Something’s amiss.
My book review of In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore
Slow is Sacred from Life Positive. Tips way over to the religiousy hippyish side