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Good to see Gene’s comment on my site – months since I have looked at the site – back at work, too busy, fast fast fast….

Still convinced that we need to slow down our thinking – but not to do nothing or to stop living our lives, but so that we can explore and find other ways of doing things.  Trouble is, it takes time, and time does not seem to be what the human species has too much of at present. Climate change, economic fragility, water and food crises – you think of it the crisis is happening somewhere, and I find it hard to imagine whart the future is going to look like even 5 years from now.

And it is so easy to think that if we did just do things ‘better’ then maybe we could work our way out of the mess.  But I no longer think ‘ better’ is good enough.  It does have to be different – at least different from the way things currently work in our powerful social institutions.

In an earlier part of my life I was embedded in the Christian tradition – it is no longer home for me, but I still find myself thinking back to, and with, some of the images and language of that time.  The ‘cloud of unknowing’ comes to mind….and I think that is where we are at for the moment.  We need to sit in that ‘unknowing’ – while still trying to live our lives with some sort of integrity, living in such ways that we keep open the possibility of healing and transformation and new ways of doing things (whether it be the economy, the health system, international relationships, or food production). Still but attentive; quiet but alert…

It has been months since I have posted – but that is what happens when one thinks slowly.

For three months I have nothing that I had to think about.  Three months of day-by-day life, no job, no projects to be completed, no deadlines to meet – and for much of that time, solitude.

And what is there to show for it?  Well – nothing really.  But yet a lot.  Things have slowed down, there was time to complete thoughts, and time to be surprised by thought.

But more than all that,  there has been time to dis-engage from the things that fill  my life, time to let those things drift.  Time to re-discover some of the things that have always mattered to me, yet have become marginal to my life –  and to begin to imagine how I could live my life true to those things.

Since I read the ‘Club of Rome’ report in the 1970s I have expected doom and gloom, social and environmental apocalypse.  Rather than retreat to the hills, or become a hippie, I have pursued a professional life, presented as a classic middle-class person…but alongside that, learnt to spin and weave (wheel and loom now gone), grown food, and wanted to  ensure that I had the means/skills to survive, with my loved ones, should things fall apart.

And now the world is looking more and more fragile – and I am recalled to where I started.  Local sustainable means of production, especially of food.

I am back home with lots of ideas, and a new set of priorities –  to become more skilled at saving seeds,  to find ways to make our block of land more economically productive, and to find ways to work with other small-block owners so that farming can be productive in New Zealand without needing to get to the massive scale of so many of our farms.  The walnut orchard is great, and growing, but it will be a few years yet before it produces income flow, so I need to find some additional approaches…

The challenge will be to sustain this focus, when I am also very aware of the need to generate an income flow, and a professional job is the most effective way to do so…But such jobs can so easily become all absorbing, and take the focus from what really matters…

Is it possible to sustain a slow-thinking clarity about life and what matters, while also working at a demanding job? or does the job become the thing against which all else is prioritised?  Time will tell…

One plus One …

I just discovered a wonderful proverb, said to be from west Africa:

If you give me an egg and I give you an egg, we each have one egg.

If you give me an idea and I give you an idea, we each have two ideas.

Of course sharing ideas is central to what slow thinking is about. And if we add to the wisdom of the proverb an understanding of generative dialogue, then we could perhaps say:

If you give me an idea and I give you an idea and we explore our ideas together, we may improve our ideas and discover several new ones along the way.

Ok, so I am unlikely to get a job as a crafter of pithy proverbs, but you get the idea. Slow thinking is at least about sharing ideas, but the energy comes from the interaction and enough time to explore. Our experience each time is that surprising and creative new lines of thinking emerge from the conversation after six or seven people have shared quite separate starting ideas.

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It is great to be noted by Carl Honoré at Slow Planet.

Carl Honoré: First impressions, and the next step….

We’ve already heard from Slow initiatives that weren’t even on our radar before. For instance, I love the sound of these Slow Thinking events in New Zealand.

Carl’s website leads with a good clarification of ‘slow’:

Slow is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace; it’s about working, playing and living better by doing everything at the right speed.

This applies as much to thinking as to other aspects of life. The genious of the Slow Thinking Movement is that we use a simple way of getting people together to help each other think better by thinking at the right speed.

Dr David Suzuki has written recently on the need for revaluing time in our thinking. He reflects on the “cacophony of demands for attention” assaulting us.

… perhaps it’s time we revisit this obsession with speed. Never before has there been a greater need for some heavy thinking before action.

Suzuki comments on the role of technology and the media in seeming to diminish or eliminate the role of time in nature and processes; “we’ve edited out the most important aspect of the ecosystem: Time.”

It’s time we reconsider the role of time in our decisions and our technologies. Maybe we all need to slow down, take time to read, think, exchange ideas and deliberate questions of who we are, where we come from, where we are heading and what life is all about. If not now, when?

The slow thinking approach is one attempt to promote the kind of exchange, questioning, and thinking that Suzuki may be suggesting. By providing a simple structure for people to bring together their ideas and experience with enough time and with a commitment to mutually exploring, examining and developing thinking, slow thinking offers an antidote to the ‘once over lightly,’ sound-bite culture of our society.

Thanks to No Time to Lose for alerting me to the piece by Suzuki.

slow planet

New site at www.slowplanet.com. Carl Honore creating a hub for slow travel, slow design, slow sport (almost seems contradictory, but I remember enjoying a slow game of croquet at times…), and slow work. All very new and fresh but worth monitoring.

Steven Johnson, in his stimulating book, Emergence, offers a quote by the futurist, Ray Kurzweil to emphasis the importance of pattern formation and recognition.

Because each individual neuron is so slow, [Ray] Kurzweil explains, “we don’t have time to think too many new thoughts when we are pressed to make a decision. The human brain relies on precomputing its analyses and storing them for future reference. We then use our pattern-recognition capability to recognize a situation as compatible to one we have thought about and then draw upon our previously considered conclusions.”

I have offered some reflections on this quote in relation to slow thinking (and prejudice) on my blog, here.