Thorunn Arnadottir, an Icelandic designer, made a clock using a string of beads draped over a notched metal disc. One bead drops every five minutes, marking time in a way that seems to slow it down.... A rattan basket designed by Alastair Fuad-Luke, a British sustainable design facilitator, as he described himself recently, will tip over if filled too quickly, “thus momentarily slowing you down as you rebalance it,” explained Mr. Fuad-Luke. (A student of Mr. Fuad-Luke’s once designed an actual speed bump for a living room. “You’d either step over it,” he said, “or perhaps you’d lie down and give it a cuddle.”)Don't let the names deceive you: This is not a satire. This is the slowness movement. Personally, I like to take my time (or hurry up) when it suits me. I don't want some tippable object tripping me up. I don't want things that make life harder. Do we rejoice when we arrive at a traffic jam or hear that our flight is delayed? But why fly at all? Walk! It will take so much longer, and then maybe you will appreciate what it means to be alive.
As for timepieces that alert you at short intervals: My parents had a mantel clock that emitted a sequence of chimes every 15 minutes. It made me think — every 15 minutes — another 15 minutes, irretrievable. They were charitable enough to turn off the chimes when I was visiting.
Whether we need to buy objects to slow us down, we might still want protection from things that push us to speed up:
A 2005 study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard showed that the I.Q.s of workers who responded quickly to the constant barrage of e-mails they received during the day fell 10 points, more than double the I.Q. drop of someone smoking marijuana.The article links to Honoré's website. (Hey! The NYT is hotlinking! They didn't use to do that. I thought I'd have to cut and paste the URL, and here it would have slowed me down, possibly thereby enriching my life.) I see Honoré has a blog. You may ask: Is that slow? But here's his post on "slow blogging" (which I can't find a way to link):
“Fast isn’t turning us into Masters of the Universe,” [said Carl Honoré, author of “In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed.”] “It’s turning us into Cheech and Chong.”
By its very nature, blogging is all about speed - instant analysis and reaction from the front line. At every conference I go to there are always a few people in the audience, laptops open, screens glowing eerily in the half-darkness, blogging away in real-time while speakers strut their stuff on stage. I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, I love the energy and insights that come from an instant reaction. I've read these real-time blogs and the best ones are sharp and profound. But sometimes I wonder how much these nimble-fingered bloggers are really getting out of the speeches - are they picking up all the shades of meaning, the different layers of the message? Might they see, hear and understand more if they gave their full attention to the speech, and then blogged a few minutes, hours or even days afterwards?That's a good point. Live-blogging can screw up your listening. I tend to do it precisely because something is long and I want to keep engaged. But some things are worth listening to with full attention, unprocessed into writing, and the writing you produce afterwards may be superior, with so much dross efficiently sieved out by your brain.
Of course, this idea about writing is not limited to blogging. Are those people at conferences really blogging, or are they taking notes?
I think that slow blogging idea could be applied to taking notes in class. I've suggested to more than one law student that it might be a good idea to close up the computer (or put down the pen) during class, to engage and really listen, and then, after class, write a page notes. The material could be clearer and better digested.
Don't you find, when you read those voluminous notes you took during class that they are full of redundancies and filler? You might be better off if you relied on — and hence developed — your memory. Listen closely during class and then, when it's over, write down what you now see as the main point, followed by a few things that struck you as interesting. Are these not better notes? And more important: Isn't your mind working better?
I've strayed pretty far from the absurd objects that got me started writing this post. I see there's something here that I love to laugh at, but also something that I can appreciate. But let me tie it together — with glucose beaded twine! — by saying that I also appreciate entrepreneurs who find a way to make money embodying a philosophy in a product. I don't object to commerce. I can buy or not buy what I want. And if their merchandise makes me laugh, have I lost? No, I've won.
So keep what you like, use what seems usable. Remember something important, along with the trifles that amuse you.
IN THE COMMENTS: Meade observes that one of my tags for this post is "fat." He writes:
Fat? I must have missed that part... must have read the post to quickly... need to slow... down, pay...After taking a goodly amount of time to laugh, I went back to the article to retrieve something I'd had in the post but edited out:
[The architect John Brown says] that fast can make you fat and make you sick. “A cookie cutter house in a new development is like a Big Mac and fries,” he said the other day. Not only are you undernourished by awkward spaces and huge houses, he said, but far-away developments require lots of driving, stealing your time and your health. Mr. Brown’s hope is to raise awareness “about resources and options,” he said. “If you learn about materials, think about where your house comes from, you’re going to be more involved with the culture of the house, rather than just engaging with it as a financial instrument.”"By the way, going back for that missing quote about "fat," I noticed a picture caption: "Christien Meindertsma knits rugs with wool from sheep she has met." Sheep she has met. Oh, I don't think that's good enough. A mere passing acquaintance with said sheep? Please form a lasting relationship with the sheep. Then, we'll see about obtaining the sheep's genuine enthusiasm about contributing its wool to your little knitting project.