What’s the best way to thrive in the world? Start with a Slow childhood. Just ask the Neanderthals…
I wrote a column in yesterday’s Washington Post about the Great Santa Debate and how it shines a light on the anxieties of modern parenting.
Our culture is obsessed with time – how to use it, how to gain it, how not to waste it. But the roots of that neurosis stretch back long before the invention of management consultants and the BlackBerry. Mankind has been fretting about time for centuries, even if the anxiety deepened with the invention of clocks. A reader has just sent me a glorious excerpt from Rabelais’ Gargantua, which was written in the 16th century. It contains wisdom and advice that ring true today:
“… And because in all other monasteries and nunneries all is composed, limited, and regulated by hours, it was decreed that in this new structure there should be neither clock nor dial, but that according to the opportunities and incident occasions, all their hours should be disposed of; for, said Gargantua, the greatest loss of time that I know, is to count the hours. What good comes of it? Nor can there be any greater dotage in the world than for one to guide and direct his courses by the sound of a bell, and not by his own judgment and discretion.”
I have been emailing Naomi Stadlen, author of What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing, to arrange an interview for my next book. This morning she sent along a splendid quote from Boris Pasternak, the Nobel-winning poet and novelist (think Doctor Zhivago). Amid the turmoil of the Russian revolution in 1917, someone told Pasternak that it was crucial in such times to react quickly and shoot (literally) from the hip. His answer was short and to the point: “In an epoch of speed one must think slowly.” A sentiment worth pondering today.
Writing the new book is absorbing all of my energy at the moment so the blog, along with almost everything else, has taken a back seat. But to prove I’m still here, and that I haven’t slowed down so much that I’ve fallen into a coma, I’m posting a couple of quotations sent to me by a reader. They hit the nail right on the head:
But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.
— Benjamin Disraeli
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.
— Will Rogers