Just before he died, the late Swedish writer, Henning Mankell (author of the famous crime detective series - "Wallander"), reflected upon the glacial pace of life that our ancestors lived as opposed to the pace of life that we now live. Upon doing research into the first civilizations to inhabit the earth, mostly stemming from the continent of Africa, Mankell learned that, contrary to popular opinion, civilization did not expand and flow into the rest of the world at hyperbolic speeds. Scientists had once thought that civilization spread into the rest of the world at a "running pace" covering hundreds of miles a year, across land bridges. However, recent evidence suggests that early civilizations only moved outwards at a rate of 5 kilometers per generation. In other words, in each generation, there was movement of only 5 kilometers away from where the previous generation lived. According to Mankell, this is evidence that previous generations moved much slower than they do now.
When you visit cultures that are slower paced than American culture, you sometimes get a feel for how frenetic our lives have become. I will never forget visiting a small Scottish town in the northwest of Scotland near where my Scottish grandmother was from. Not knowing the area very well, I asked a local farmer how far it was to the next city over. He scratched his head and said, "I think it is about half a day's walk from here." "How many miles is it?" I inquired. He scratched his head again and said, "You know, I am not rightly sure. The trouble is that I have never been there before." "How long have you lived in this town?" I asked. He told me his whole life. And then he said, "Never had any reason to go to the next city over. Got all that I need here."
I am taking a class for my DMin, whose central premise is the speed of the world now, versus the speed of the world a few centuries ago, and how we can only recapture a sense of deeper Spirituality if we learn to slow down in our modern life. The speed of life that we experience today has been called many different names by different scholars. Here are a few of my favorites; "the collapse of space and time" (Shenk), "future shock" (Toffler), "the juggernaut...rushing out of control" (Giddens), "the annihilation of time" (Castells). One scholar put it like this, "So now we live in a technological age, computers of unprecedented capacity and speed, and almost instantaneous communication with colleagues anywhere in the world. But I have a question: "When do you have time to think?"
Many years ago, when I did competitive speech and debate in high school and college, my speech coaches used to have a little saying that helped us when we were giving our speeches. It was particularly helpful when we were very nervous in an extremely competitive speech round and were prone to speed up our delivery. They used to say;
Slow Will Go, Fast Is Last
I can still imagine my speech coach using his hand to push the air downward and saying from the back of the room, "Slow Down...." As I slowed down my delivery, I found that actually the whole room became more focussed on each word that I said, and my message was more compelling in the end.
My speech coaches also used to have another pneumonic that was helpful
Check Your Tie, Check Your Fly....
But that is a topic for another blog post..:-)
So my recommendation for this week? Slow down. If someone criticizes you for it, just say, my ancient ancestors moved at a pace of 5 kilometers per generation. If I am going to keep up with them today, I will have to move just five centimeters more, and then take a nap..
Slow Will Go, Fast Is Last
All For Now,