"In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts. Boredom - the word itself hardly existed 150 years ago - is a modern invention. Remove all stimulation, and we fidget, panic and look for something, anything, to do to make use of the time. When did you last see someone just gazing out the window on a train? Everyone is too busy reading the paper, playing video games, listening to iPods, working on the laptop, yammering into mobile phones. [Add texting, Facebook, and Twitter here.]I come back to Carl's book again and again as the Cult of Speed rudely, vulgarly tries to stick its nose into my life.
Instead of thinking deeply, or letting an idea simmer in the back of the mind, our instinct now is to reach for the nearest sound bite. In modern warfare, correspondents in the field and pundits in the studio spew out instant analyses of events as they occur. Often their insights turn out to be wrong. But that hardly matters nowadays; in the land of speed, the man with the instant response is king. With satellite feeds and twenty-four-hour news channels, the electronic media is dominated by what one French sociologist dubbed 'le fast thinker' - a person who can, without skipping a beat, summon up a glib answer to any question.
The anecdotal evidence is everywhere. In Los Angeles, a man starts a fire at a supermarket checkout because the customer ahead of him is taking too long to pack his groceries. A woman scratches the paintwork of a car that beats her to a parking spot in London. A company executive tears into a flight attendant when his plane is forced to spend an extra twenty minutes circling Heathrow airport before landing. 'I want to land now!' he shouts, like a spoiled child. 'Now, now, now!' ~~Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness, Challenging the Cult of Speed
In my neighborhood park, on a wooden bench, under a tall decorative walkway lamp, in the last remaining light of the evening sat a thirty-something woman. Smartly dressed, posture straight yet comfortable, her thumb between the pages of a closed book in her hand, she pondered. Right there in the park, surrounded by flowers, evergreens, expansive lawn, sunset's first glow, and amidst people she sat thinking, mulling, lost in thought. Her face relaxed, pleasant. I smiled at her, she smiled and nodded at me. She seemed at peace yet somehow out of place as the world scurried. At the same time she was the most in-place, sensible, real part of the landscape. Engaged in life as opposed to driven by it.
I think of her often and am encouraged. The Cult of Speed lost that day. The woman won.
And so did I.