The Significance of Slow Things

Too often, we fail to appreciate the value of slow movement. In fact, it seems like many of us want most things to be moving faster. Our smartphones don’t seem smart enough to download the Internet as quickly as they should (despite their relatively small size, lack of cables, or ever-evolving technology), the other parents aren’t dropping off their children at school fast enough, the computer took an entire TWO MINUTES to boot, and the tomatoes in our garden are STILL GREEN AFTER FOUR WEEKS.

Because so many aspects of our lives move so quickly, we often dash from one activity to the next without any thought of slowing down. We can’t slow down, we say. That would be disastrous! How will anything get done? A typical day might be to wake up, shower, eat breakfast (assuming there’s time), gulp down some coffee, get the kids off to school, get to work, deal with the business of working all day, pick up the kids, drive home, cook dinner, clean up afterwards, help with homework, make sure the kids are doing their chores, walk the dog, then get things ready for the next day. Sure, we may have help through some of that, but is it any wonder why we collapse in bed and fall asleep within 60 seconds of hitting the pillow? And that is IF there is no baseball practice, kid’s orchestra concert, or grocery shopping. Even worse, for some of us, the weekends are not all that relaxing either. And so we go.

I get it. I’m just as guilty as you are. In such a fast-paced world, it’s difficult slow down. It’s equally difficult to dial our brains down a notch or two and contemplate the slow things at all. Sure, we grow gardens, but we are now in the Cultivation Period, those inpatient weeks between sowing and reaping. How many of us have grabbed our proverbial knife and fork, giddily springing into our back yard gardens, only to wail at the slow pace of life, lamenting the tomato that hasn’t ripened since we first saw it weeks ago. We hungrily pout back into the house, head hung low, our knives and forks cartoonishly dragging on the ground behind us, like children brooding away from the candy aisle because our parents said, “No.”

It’s frustrating.

Or, perhaps it isn’t our daily tasks moving us from place to place, but our desire to chase the proverbial horizon, constantly searching for the next thing and then the next next thing. For years, I flew from one interest to another like a butterfly moving from flower to flower within some massive garden, seeking something to satiate my vocational desires, my intellectual wanderlust, if you will. On top of that, I spent much of my early years trying to live my life in the manner others expected of me. I wasted many days doing too much, too quickly, and for the wrong reasons. Society told me that I needed to reach for the next best thing, the next rung in that ladder to success. So, I did just that, barely looking around as I went. I certainly didn’t have time to do anything like cultivate a garden.

Luckily, I learned as I got older that such things are not important. If you move through life too quickly, you may find yourself with more regrets than memories. Doing things slowly does not need to be counter-productive to our lives. There is significance in slow things. For proof, look to our gardens. They teach us that there is virtue in slowing down. They grow in their own due time under the right conditions and cultivation, ultimately producing the fruit for which we yearn. By slowing down, we watch. We listen as the garden teaches us an important lesson: Slowing down is not the same thing as stopping. Patience is not passive resignation, but rather rewarding cultivation. As Aristotle said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

Your garden might be a vast landscape, a few raised beds, or a small collection of pots on the balcony. Regardless of its size, you want to smell it, touch it, and breathe it. Have you ever noticed how, upon entering your garden, you find yourself lingering? Perhaps it’s the oxygen in the air or the life of the plants around us that compel us to stay. It may even be something more extraordinary and transcendent that we cannot comprehend. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that we are not frantically thumbing away at a smartphone. We find ourselves slowing down in a significant way, contrary to anything we did (or will do) all day. We are not rushing dinner into the oven, listening to the latest political drama on television, or bargaining with the kids about candy money. We linger because we are experiencing life’s natural, slow progression, and we long to be a part of it. 

So, allow yourself to slow down. Allow yourself and your tomatoes to remain green for a while. For the tomatoes, we have little choice in the matter; for ourselves, it can sometimes take conscious effort. Learn from your gardening techniques and cultivate your life beyond your garden. Learn to enjoy the slow things rather than suffering through them, and the fruit of your endeavors will be even sweeter than the ripest of fruit. 

Acknowledgements:

Tomato image courtesy of Chrissi Nerantzi

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