November 9, 2011 § 13 Comments
Your parents ordered you to do something you didn’t want to do. You couldn’t say no, you weren’t in charge.
But you could do the job you didn’t want to do…very…very…slowly. And they couldn’t pulverize you because you were, after all, doing the job.
If you did it slowly enough a sympathetic parent might take pity on you and help (this happened often in my home since my mom had a crystal clear memory of being a put-upon kid). Drag the job out long enough and something more important might come up–like a house fire or bedtime. An impatient parent might get so frustrated they’d do the job themselves. With any of these outcomes you sort of won.
Even when you did the whole job yourself the slows allowed you to maintain your dignity while lodging a silent protest.
In those days the hierarchy was simple. There was you (the underdog). And your parents (the overdog).
The chain of command is harder to diagram now that you’re a grown-up. Like a spider wrapping its prey no single thread holds you, but from the overt (I need this report on my desk by three o’clock) to the subtle (you have 439 new e-mail messages in your inbox) those seemingly flimsy threads can immobilize you.
And it’s getting worse.
As technology increases our connectedness those small threads are becoming more numerous, wrapping us more and more tightly. Individually they don’t look all that bad. But tether your time to enough small demands and one day you wake up dead. When you do you will still have 439 new e-mail messages in your inbox.
At least when our parents were bossing us around we were being bossed by biological units who shared our need to rest, blow off steam, and occasionally eat chocolate. But now we are more and more often being bossed by almost-thinking machines that do not understand the phrases: lt’s the weekend, my kid is sick, or today is so beautiful I can’t sit at his desk another minute.
So let us return now to those golden days of yesteryear, the days of the slows. Have the reasons we dragged our feet gone away? A kid with a case of the slows is protesting their lack of power, their objection to the job at hand. Are you feeling powerful? Do you like the job at hand?
In addition to being part of a righteous protest, reliving the slows would yield fringe benefits: chewing slowly enough to taste your meal, watching your baby sleep, hanging laundry on a clothes line and letting it flap in the wind, uni-tasking. I’m sure you can imagine slow outcomes of your own.
So, what do you say, want to give it a shot?
When you feel yourself weaken ask yourself this question: If I don’t get this done RIGHT NOW will anyone die? If the answer is NO continue to move slowly.
Can it work? That depends.
One person conducting a slow protest will get fired.
Ten people? Maybe it’s just something in the water.
But one million people, ten million people, a bajillion people? As the numbers rise, slow will begin to seem normal, the frenetic pace we keep now a mass craziness—could it be something in the water?