Art by Peau Porotesano
My sister is the slowest eater I know. She has a knack for taking a simple meal and turning it into a 45-minute-plus dining experience. For most of my life, I teased my sister for taking so long to finish eating. Yet I’ve recently begun wondering, “Why is it such an issue to take one’s time at an activity?” Being slow at anything, not just eating, is almost always frowned upon — but what does being Speedy Gonzalez accomplish? Perhaps those who take their time in daily activities are on to something.
I know I’m not the only one who gets exasperated walking behind that person on the way to class. You know, that person. The person who takes his sweet time walking. He adopts a leisurely stroll, maybe even stopping now and then to chat with a friend. Meanwhile, it’s 11:57 a.m. and you’re almost late to history. In the words of Johnny Cash, “time’s a wastin’.”
But when was the last time you took the time to notice the sunrise on the walk to your 8 a.m.? When was the last time you noticed the fresh breeze on your face as you headed to your last class of the day? Or turned on your favorite jam when you’re stuck in traffic? Life can feel wearisome when we’re always racing against the clock.
In this day and age, time is the highest-valued commodity. We have speed reading and instant oatmeal and same-day shipping. In a society that values immediacy, being a slowpoke can be challenging. Slowness is generally equated with being unproductive, but this is an unfair assessment.
Taking one’s time has recently been linked to mindfulness, which actually helps improve productivity as well as health, according to research found in the June 2013 article “Machines Can’t Flow: The Difference Between Mechanical and Human Productivity” by Linda Stone in The Atlantic and a page titled “Mindfulness” on the National Health Service of the United Kingdom’s website, last updated in January of this year. We might be taking the phrase, “live fast, die young” too literally. Always being in a rush can lead to prolonged stress, which has adverse effects on our health.
Does this mean I’m advocating slowness in all areas of life? Absolutely not. It’s important not to become subject to Parkinson’s Law, which suggests that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Simply put, this means taking the maximum amount of time to complete a task. Don’t take an obscenely long time to complete a task, but also don’t hasten through life haphazardly.
Author Greg Anderson once said, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” I couldn’t agree more. Maybe Aesop was right; maybe slow and steady really does win the race. The next time you’re stuck in traffic behind a slow driver or your roommate’s taking forever in the shower in the morning, try to take that time to live life in the slow lane and just enjoy the ride.
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