“Do everything faster”

Written by on October 25, 2011

In his book In Praise of Slowness, Canadian journalist Carl Honoré explores what he sees as one of the great, unchallenged assumptions of modern society—“do everything faster.”  He recounts an awakening moment in his own hurried life when he was waiting for a flight home from London.  While trying to pass the time by flipping through a newspaper, Honoré noticed an article entitled, “The One-Minute Bedtime Story.”  Initially the concept attracted him.  Night after night of struggling with putting his son to bed, exhausted by this two-year-old’s objections of “you’re reading the story too quickly” or the cries for yet “another story,” Honoré admitted an irresistible draw to the possibility of somehow accelerating this nightly ritual.  But as he begins to think through how he can buy this book as quickly as possible, a question surfaces in his mind,

Have I gone completely insane? …. My whole life has turned into an exercise in hurry, in packing more and more into every hour…And I am not alone. Everyone around me—colleagues, friends, family—is caught in the same vortex. [1]

Honoré explores how modern society expresses this “cult of speed” in a variety of areas—food, urban life, medicine, sex, work, leisure, raising children.  He sets his sights not against the modern technological life as a whole, but rather against the all-pervasiveness of this “do everything faster” ethos.

The problem is that our love of speed, our obsession with doing more and more in less and less time, has gone too far; it has turned into an addiction, a kind of idolatry.…And yet some things cannot, should not, be sped up.  They take time; they need slowness.  When you accelerate things that should not be accelerated, when you forget how to slow down, there is a price to pay.[2]

Nothing quietly erodes our capacity to pay attention and invest deeply in another’s life than day after day, month after month, year after year of hurried activity. Such a pace shrinks our imaginations, forfeits our joy, and forces a defensive posture in our relationships. We are simply not designed to flourish at this pace. Most people, whether pastor or congregation, will be looking for shortcuts and quick fixes, but discipleship work “cannot, should not, be sped up.” We must resist the pressure to squeeze our formation efforts into an efficient shape. Paying attention to the growth of another necessitates much patience and perseverance. If we never challenge this “do everything faster” assumption, then any effort that involves a deepening of relationships will appear to be a waste of our time.

[1] Carl Honore’, In Praise of Slow:  How a Worldview Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed.  (San Francisco, CA:  Harper, 2004), 2.
[2] Ibid, 4

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  1. Reid Olson   On   October 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Rob, this is excellent insight and much needed to ponder in my life. Even as I’ve lost my job in May and have been frantic about finding a new ministry calling, I have been forced to take time to slow down… it’s all I have with no job. Yet, I am finding that slowing down is a ‘soul’ practice, not an exterior living out of the fast pace of life, for me. Though I don’t have work to consume my day, I find that the frantic pace of thinking and doing consume my hours. I need soul-pace; to slow down internally and let the Mighty pace of God, that ever seemingly slow pace of God, determine my pace. Thank you for your thoughts today, friend. I have much to learn from you Rob.

    • Rob Loane   On   October 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      Great to hear your voice Reid. And it sounds like you are in a tough transition. I resonate with the challenges of “slowing” that you are talking about…certainly external factors press us to go faster but there are also those internal factors (anxieties, ways of seeing, etc) that create even more pressure. I hope that this season might provide an invitation to see and be in the world a bit differently…

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