Slowness is awareness

Many of the fastest ways to live are the worst carbon-spewing, globe-toasting things you can do:

  • Drive a fossil-fueled car, instead of walking or biking.
  • Ride a lawn mower, instead of pushing a reel mower.
  • Snarf a fast-food burger, instead of spending 10 burger-making minutes in the kitchen.

Speed does something else besides roasting the globe: It deadens vast swaths of our sensory world. Driving a car means you watch the road, not the double rainbow behind you. Riding a mower means you listen to a blatting engine, not the birds in your neighbor’s maple. Eating a mass-made burger means you miss the smell and taste of home-made.

But who cares? What’s wrong with always barreling along to the next whatchamacallit or hurtling toward the next appointment with important whosits?

Well, if speed breeds a big brood of sensory death in our lives, and if we depend on all of our senses to observe and think and conclude, then we’re starving ourselves of the stuff of independent thought.

What’s left? Talking heads on TV, for one thing, eager to pour their wisdom down our metaphorical throat. If you’re speeding through life, oblivious to much of the sensory swirl around you, what experience do you have that can act as a check on the “experts”?

For example: If you amble along a country road and listen for the music of a meadowlark, you’ll notice that meadowlarks are disappearing along with the meadows they love. So when burbling public personalities dismiss avian decimation as a way to keep ornithologists busy, you’ll know better.

So I’m saying a kind word for slowness. Slowness gives you the life-changing chance to soak up more of what your senses can send to your instrument of thought. And who can’t use a little more of that in a world of speed that shrinks our senses – and thinking – to a gnarly little nubbin?