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Life in slow motion

In the Summer of 2001 I went back to Europe for the first time after emigrating to the United States in 1991.

For the first three weeks, I visited my sister and her family in Grevenbroich, Germany. Every morning I observed her neighborhood through my bedroom window with the same feeling. I sensed that something was terribly strange about everything I saw. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell what it was.

What did I see?

I saw a perfectly clean narrow street and the perfectly clean concrete steps of a small red-brick house across the street.  I saw a perfect front yard (with all the plants in perpetual state of perfect blooming) of another small house across that street.

And I saw people in slow motion: dump truck workers walking slowly around the back of the yellow-green truck, placing trash cans with care onto a small, moving platform that turned the trashcan up side down.  I saw a tall man who wore sandals on white socks that reached up almost to his knees (yes, I am in Germany, I thought).

It took me more than a week of observation and a couple of questions to my sister until I finally understood what was strange and what was wrong with what I saw.

I was told that the dump truck workers value their health and that’s why they don’t rush.  Besides, they don’t rush because they don’t have to.  They have only as much work to do as much time they have to do it well.

I was told that the tall man in white socks is a doctor who comes home every day to have lunch with his wife and their three small children.  His lunch break lasts two hours because he values the time with his family.

And finally I saw why the front yard plants were in the state of a perfect bloom.  Every time a plant was done blooming, it was taken out of the ground and replaced with a new one.  All the plants were replaced continuously, including the small red-rose bushes.

I didn’t think that those ten years in my new home in the United States would change my perception of life drastically, but eventually I came to this heartbreaking conclusion.  There was something terribly strange about me!  There was something wrong with me!

I thought of the days when I eat my meals standing in the kitchen and how I am done eating at the moment that I am done preparing the food.

I thought how fast I am!  I thought of how I have mastered multitasking so well that I can’t even remember what I have accomplished on any given day. Too busy to notice.

I thought of my friend who comes back from work between 7:00PM and 9:00PM most nights of the week because she can’t fulfill the requirements of her job in the eight-hour work day.

I thought of another friend who needed a bigger house, and both she and her husband decided to work two jobs to save enough for the down payment.

Today, ten years later, I can say I have learned my lesson.

I appreciate the slow things in life, like the cup of coffee in the morning when I sit on my deck and watch the trees move gently in the breeze.  The moment when the page of a book moves in a slow arc to reveal the next passage.  And the slow rain that falls on my face when I look up.  The cradle of a Young Moon.  The eyes of a student who freezes in awe or a smile.  A pause before my fingers touch the keyboard again.  The hand of a friend touching my shoulder.  And long long embrace of someone close to my heart.  All the moments of stillness when everything seems to be right.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a wonderful short film about the “slow movement,” which ultimately brought me to writing this blog post. Watch it. What do you think? Is it time to slow down?

28 Responses to “Life in slow motion”

  1. Janet says:

    What a beautifully written piece of work and I loved the snail photograph. I agree with you totally. Even in New Zealand where we are far away from the centre of things, life is often about hurrying. People are busy filling their lives with so much.

    It is really nice to sit back and relax and stay in the present and aprreciate our surroundings. Every day I schedule time to sit in mystudio and look out to the green trees and relax.

    I get some of my best ideas for my art and writing that way.

    Thank you so muchg for an inspirational post.
    Regards Janet Keen

    • danutahinc says:

      Janet,

      Thank you for sharing with all of us.

      The East teaches us that the Divine resides in stillness.

      It teaches us that we can connect with the Divine in the pause between our breaths (notice the “no breath” zone after each exhalation).

      I like this image of carrying the stillness, of being part of the great stillness of the Universe.

      All we need to do is remember and connect.

      Many still inspirational moments to you, my friend!

      Danuta

  2. Thomas says:

    Very nice Danuta. Yesterday, in the middle of the day, I went to the mall, found a bench and sat for half an hour. No book, no phone calls, no lists…just me sitting and watching life go by.

    I thought that I had just wasted half an hour, but your essay makes me feel better about taking the time to do that.

  3. Anita R says:

    Hi Danuta: I have not had a chance to view the movie, but I did glance on it and did some reviews on the internet.
    I like the idea of slowing down. Just last week on Friday night, it was a nice cool night outside and it stays light longer past 730pm.
    I said to my husband Dean, I am reminiscing about times when I was a child and in the neighborhood, you would hear children playing, barbeques would be grilling, neighbors would be hanging out on there porches or lawns.

    These days, neighbors tend to be “out” yet “doing things”
    maintaining there lawns, lawn mowers are in full blast, sprinklers systems are going.

    Very rarely do you hear or smell the backyard bbque. I miss those days of a child.
    I think as youth we are already slowing down, because this is the only thing we know, we want to slow down so that our parents will let us play with the neighborhood kids, a game of kick the can or kickball on the cul de sac.

    As adults we are and tend to be obsessed with out “to do list” texting, emailing or viewing our opinion on facebook. Yet is that such a bad thing? We can connect with family and friends in a brief instant and feel as if we have “said hello” even though it may have been via the internet.
    We can connect with family who are overseas or in other states.
    We feel as we have communicate and caught up with them briefly.
    Yet nothing replacing the family visit, and face to face connection.

    Our culture does breed a sense of multitasking and “keeping up with the Jones” this can be a good thing, yet it can be a bad thing when it removes us from the true sense of who we are.
    We can learn growth, maturity, responsiblity and sense of self by volunteering, serving on community boards, coaching soccer teams, and running the 1/2 marathons. It is when we loose site of our intention and goals and get lost in the “craziness” of it all that we should realize it is time to slow down.

    Thanks for good blog, I always enjoy reading them.

    Take Care,

  4. blogolicious says:

    There is a book called “Margin” that discusses the idea that as we find ever more things we want and need to do, the margin of free unstructured time shrinks. Speaking as a webbie, I notice that social media tools and portable computing (cellphones) have upped the shrink-wrapping of our lives. All these companies and “killer apps” are competing to get a tiny slice of the tiny margin of time we may have left. (I myself compete for some of that margin time as a blogger.)

    Someone once told me civilization is a form of madness. Perhaps it’s getting even madder still.

  5. David S says:

    To live slow is to live life to enjoy it. Take joy in every moment, every breeze. There is no reason to rush things, life is short. Life begins and ends in the blink of an eye. Existance is but a dream. Why rush through the good and the bad if you can just relax, and live at a pace where you live peacefully. The modern thinking has us moving at one-hundred miles an hour, rushing through our lives to get the most out of it. If you are driving through a country, and speeding through to see everything in one day, you will see it, but not experiance it. You must slow down, enjoy every moment.

  6. David S says:

    You rush things… and you will screw up… be it spelling or living fully. I would rather experience a day laying in the shade of an old oak tree then see every tree in every forest on every world.

  7. Matt says:

    I often Find myself sitting in my room or in my car after I park it in my drive way and just sit there for an extra minute and just think. Normally when I am in my car it’s late and I will just sit and reflect on what happened during the day and what I did. I enjoy just taking a minute to do absolutely nothing and just think about whats going on in my life. I find that I am always trying to do everything a 1000 miles a minute and complete one task and move on to the next as fast as I can. I often have to catch myself and slow myself down. My grandpa always tells me to never sacrifice quality for quantity. The saying that he told me means a lot to me and I try to do everything to the best of my ability without doing a sub par job.

  8. Tyler Finn says:

    I have one story about my life that kept coming back to me as I read your post. During the past 3 years of my life I have been working at a fairly dead end retail job. I remember everyday working I used to rush through my tasks to try and get them done as quickly as possible so that I could get out of there as soon as possible. I remember one day as I was running around my manager looked at me and asked me “what are you doing” I told him “going quickly so I can get out of here”. With a grin on his face he looked at me and said “you do realize you get paid by the hour right?”. I will always remember when he told me that. Because from then on we both would work together to get our tasks done but we would take our time and laugh and have fun because we knew that as long as it got done eventually we were still getting paid. Him telling me this really got me to slow down and I actually noticed I became a better worker and when I was finally completed my task I knew I did a good job that I could stand behind. I will never forget when he told me that and will take that lesson with me where ever I go.

  9. T-Aslam says:

    Being slow doesn’t mean that you are non productive and being fast doesn’t mean that you are very productive. If you work at a constant pace you are more productive without the errors associated with the fast pace working.

  10. Summer says:

    At the current time in my life I feel I have no choice but to rush everywhere. My day begins at 4am and does not usually end until 10pm or later. My favorite things are enjoying the weather and enjoying nature so luckily I can squeeze these beautiful things into my day, but then onto the next task I must go. I am so thankful for all that I have been given and for waking up everyday, but when you are so busy and you get a small break, that is when you realize how great the smallest things in life are. I enjoy getting thirty minutes to be able to do so many things that I once took for granted.

  11. Haymi says:

    Well I totally agree with the idea however, mostly my life is timed. Living in America specially when you have to work and go to school full time believe me there is no such a thing you will say “slowing down”. Even I want to slow down I just can’t. Because I will be wasting my time if I don’t get in my routine. I get up early in the morning till almost 10pm I will be rushing to get things done. But you know what I’m missing to do right now? Taking life in slow motion and appreciate what I have. Thank you for sharing the sense of “slow motion” it really helps me to look back and realize my daily life.

  12. Mike Grenfell says:

    Americans live in a very fast-paced society in which everybody does things as if they are late. I am the same way. I work from three to five nights a week until three in the morning then realize that I have to wake up in a couple hours to get to school. Every morning is rush out the door. I cannot remember the last time I woke up in the morning and took my time to get ready for school. My schedule consists of school, the gym, then work with only a window of time short enough in between each one to allow me to get ready for the next thing on my schedule. I feel as though I represent the majority of Americans who move around constantly without any time to really enjoy themselves or the things around them. When I visited Holland two summers ago with my soccer team, I noticed that everybody was very relaxed. To get anywhere, we had to ride our bikes or walk. At the bars, everybody drank slowly, as opposed to the binge drinking that Americans like to do. At the restaurants people once again ate slowly (not to mention the food is much healthier than in America) and not like beasts which is the way some Americans eat. It is definitely time for things to slow down.

  13. Felicia Tuttle says:

    I would consider myself a product of a quick paced society. I find myself doing things hastily, rushing to get somewhere on time, only to find that the rushing makes me even more late. I always have so much to do so I, too, am a master of multi-tasking. Sometimes I rush out of habit, when there is no need to. I wonder occasionally if I am addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes along with moving so fast. On days that I do decide to slow down, I feel that I am not accomplishing anything, like the world is gaining speed on me and winning the race! It is funny to read this post because I just recently have experienced a small epiphany. I went to the hospital to visit my step-grandmother who was dying of lung cancer. It was a nice visit though, and after leaving I wondered if she was satisfied with her life… did she move too fast? Did she regret not taking her time to appreciate life more often? These thoughts made me realize that time moves so fast for me because I don’t take my time. I came to the conclusion that I should maybe slow down so that I can remember at the end of the week, how thankful I should be for making it through.

  14. Melanie B says:

    I think that today life seems to be going by too fast. People are always on the go and love to mulitask. I feel that I am a slower person allways trying to seize the moment. I agreee with you that it is time for people to slow down becuse in this day and age everybody just wants to rush to be ahead of everybody else. It could be academically or socially insted of taking time to really communicate with others.

  15. Michael Leonard says:

    What you have noticed is the mentality of Europe differs from North America, where is in America, in general, we focus on quantity not quality, In Europe it is the opposite. I suppose the root to this problem is what you said in class, America is a much larger place than Europe, so Americans have to put more effort in getting from one place to another, and in order to shorten this we take shortcuts or rush. This naturally effects are other habits in the same way. There are advantages and disadvantages to both these methods, but it is probably better if you find a middle ground or know when which method is better for a certain time or situation. People from both cultures are probably turned off by this idea because that would require more brain power to moderate, and most individuals don’t want to do too much thinking. An example of these two cultures clashing is when the famous film director James Cameron was filming Aliens in the 80’s, and this movie was being filmed in England. He was very unhappy with the pacing of the crew, which was much slower than he wanted because he was on a deadline, and this caused some conflict. As for me, I do tend to multitask when I am doing a certain thing, like drawing. To me drawing is so basic that I can listen to music or watch T.V. at the same time without it hurting the quality of my work. It is only when I try to get a certain amount of work each day that the quality starts to drop because I am rushing. I right now am trying to avoid rushing in art because I like the outcome when I take your time.

  16. Jami Jordan says:

    I have long been a fan of slowing down.
    Besides the obvious reasons for fast paste life styles in a country so demanding of results, I think being
    slow to many people is synonyms with some sort of mental condition.
    As the saying goes ‘what are you slow or something?” simply because a person may not get a joke that was just told or because you response to something is not at the same pace as others. Besides that, the word slow is often used in place of mental retardation.
    I’d prefer doing things slower because it allows more time to think. I’d prefer thinking thoroughly over things before engaging in them because I find people who rush often make many mistakes.
    This often leads to even more time fixing the mistakes than it would have taken or at least just as much time it would have taken to do the things right in the first place. This is not always the case but it often happens this way.

  17. tyler foster says:

    Although I’ve never been to Europe, I can completly
    understand your feelings of the pace of human life in another country and see it myself within our own
    country. I moved around a decent amount as a child,
    all to separate parts of the country. The northeast,
    midwest, and south are all extremely different in
    comparison. I grew up in the south for the early years
    of my life, many of which I don’t remember and spent
    the majority of my childhood in the northeast. When I
    relocated to the midwest during high school, I found it
    to be extremely different. The people seemed more
    polite, able to hold doors open for you and always let
    cars change lanes in front of them. This was different
    then Maryland, very rarely would someone wait to hold a
    door open for a person behind them. The only way
    another car would let you into their lane was if you
    gassed it past them and then swooped in while slamming
    on your break so you don’t rear end the car in front of
    you. There was a slower way of life, people more willing
    to communicate then get from point A to point B as
    quickly as possible.
    |
    |
    My mother moved back to the south fairly recently and I
    often visit her. The only time I previously spent in the
    south was when I was visiting my sister at school or
    going to the beach, so I never really experienced the”
    true” southern way until my mother began living there.
    I expected it to be much like the Midwest but it again
    was different. The people in this region were extremely
    slow. If you needed a repair man, they say they’ll be
    there that day but actually show up three days later.
    My mom says, “they’ll promise you the moon here.” The
    people I found to be very polite although there was
    always underlying racial issues with the majority of the
    people there and they weren’t shy about it. So far, I’ve
    seen both sides of the spectrum with the northeast and
    south, and somewhere in between lays the midwest. I’d
    really like to visit the west coast and see where they fit
    into the equation.

  18. Shawn McCreary says:

    When i think about life in slow motion i think about the concept of savering the moment. Living in the moment of something that you love can probably be the best feeling in the world whether its spending time with someone you enjoy spending time with and feeling like life is slowing down around. For example maybe the first kiss with someone you have a unique love for, when you live in the moment you feel like everything is slowed down and nothing else matters. For me i have lived in slow motion playing basketball. One of the most critical moments is the last 2 minutes of a basketball game. 2 minutes can almost feel like 20 minutes easily during that time. But i love to live life in slow motion because you can only live it once.

  19. zac yelnosky says:

    As a society we spend way too much time working in general. We work pointless jobs, for pointless reasons. We all need to take a bit more time to just relax, and actually enjoy life, instead of rushing and panicking to get to another part of it.

  20. brenk says:

    I did watch the short film. Do disagree with the ending, in its saying, it’s important to do everything as well as possible. I think it’s more important to decide what is well enough, which has been hard for me throughout life. Now that I am retired, I have the luxury of not running (literally) between doing things. It is such a luxury. It’s interesting. Today, the girl shampooing my hair at the hair salon, told me that she has been sampling many things in life (IT classes, cosmetology, etc). I said I thought that was good. Her reply was, yes, it might be, but she would try one thing, then the next, then the next. She said that she realized she didn’t have the discipline to stick with something, and that was something she was going to try to get. I said I thought the instant messaging, texting, face booking, with all immediate results was having a detrimental effect on the young people’s idea that things should provide immediate results. She agreed. I think answering emails immediately, dealing with frustrating phone trees, so much intervention in people’s lives by the government so fear and frustration is evident and makes people not easily able to relax and enjoy the small pleasures. Sometimes just turning off the TV and sitting and listening to nothing and just looking around, or sitting outside and just watching the birds and dogs play in my yard, brings such joy, and it is when you slow down that these things are there. So I guess doing what you have to do, and doing things slower to enjoy is a good mix.

  21. David A says:

    I am half Ethiopian, I lived there for 3 months the summer I graduated from HS. Best three months of my life, ethiopia is one of the most laid back countries that i have been too, stores close down for lunch and parents pick up their kids from school and everyone eats lunch at home… things are done with great care and pleasure.

  22. Caitlin S. says:

    When I read this I feel sad that people my age, that have not had the benefits of growing up in another country, do not really know the concept slow. I have lived in Maryland my whole life and its hard to understand or visualize the masses slowing down in life to actually enjoy it.

    Some times I become frightened that at this age will be the only time I can truly sit back and enjoy. Though college is stressful I do not own a home or have a 9-5 job. I have a lot less to worry about now then I will in a few years.

    I suppose the thing to do is be aware of this and to always make time to slow down. I think we forget the short time we have on this earth and maybe if we stopped to realize this we would be able to slow down and enjoy the simple beauty before its gone.

  23. Robert B says:

    Yes it is time to slow down, but we can’t afford to slow down, because we will be left behind. This is what we think, believe and worship. Why? We don’t want to be left behind: we don’t want to be a loser. But, we are losers, because we did not slow down.

  24. susan says:

    This is a wake up call, I need to slow done and appreciate live more. The excuse that I am so busy with school is no longer going to be one, so upon my break I will evaluate what is really important to me and how am I use my time and energy. Getting back to simplier and slow will be a great switch.

  25. rachelshields says:

    I work and go to school both full time and i know that sometimes it seems that there just isn’t enough time to finish all that needs to get done. This is scary because i am so young and will have many more responsibilities with time. I don’t want to be a part of the fast moving society that surrounds me. I love slowing down and feeling the wind blow through my window and onto my warm skin, the crickets or whatever it is making that chirping noise outside my window and just breathing sitting and being..