Slow Sunday

Remember when we used to have a day of rest? In Christian countries, it was Sunday. Work stopped, stores closed, the sound and fury of the city subsided.

But that’s all a distant memory now. Sunday has become just like any other day of the week: we work, shop, surf the Net, sit fuming in traffic jams.

This is folly. Most cultures have some kind of Sabbath tradition for one simple reason: we all need a break.

It’s probably too late to turn back the clock to make Sunday an official day of rest. The genie is out of the bottle and the world is too complex and multicultural to accept an enforced Sabbath.

But we can still set aside a day to relax, reflect and spend time with the people that are important to us.

One way to do that is to take part in the Slow Sunday Campaign. It is the brainchild of Resurgence, a wonderful British magazine that espouses a Slow view of the world. One Sunday a month, its readers are invited “to take part in simple actions that symbolize a rejection of commercialism, a passion for the planet and a desire for change.”

One Sunday it was baking bread. Last time it was planting something.

I love this idea. We’re all so busy and frenetic that we almost need a campaign to remind us that it’s okay to ease off one day a week.

My own Sundays are already pretty slow. In the morning I play soccer with my son, his friends and few other dads. Then we usually cook, eat a leisurely lunch and maybe go for a walk.

Come to think of it, our Saturdays are kinda slow, too.

If the Resurgence campaign catches fire, the next step might be to start crusading for Slow Weekends…

A slow prayer…

The other day I gave a talk in the chambers beneath St. Peter’s churchin Vienna, Austria. It was the first time the crypt had been used for a secular event in nearly a thousand years. With the dim lighting, ancient altarpieces and faint whiff of incense, and with the stone walls blocking out all mobile phone reception, it was the perfect setting for an evening devoted to Slow. My hosts were the Austrian chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization– high-flying businesspeople, in other words – but the monsignor in charge of the church was there, too. I felt a bit uneasy seeing him in the front row, but in the end he laughed along at the more risqué jokes. Afterwards, he came up to me with a confession. You know, as I was listening to you, I suddenly realized how easy it is to do things in the wrong way, he said. Lately I have been praying too fast.

Slow prayer

I gave a talk over the weekend to some executives and afterwards one of them, a very affable Austrian called Thomas, told me about the time he went to close a big business deal with the Vatican. He arrived from Vienna with a full schedule of meetings but instead of hurrying to the first of them his priest-chaperone took him to a chapel to pray for 45 minutes. And they stopped for further prayers after every meeting through the busy day. At first Thomas was anxious and restless, but eventually he surrendered to the ritual and actually found the breaks quite soothing. He also found that the meetings were more relaxed and more efficient (faster, even!) because he’d had time to reflect, recharge and even plan a little. Maybe prayer is the ultimate form of slowness.