This is Part I in a three-part series.
Slow Words Wisdom is one way to describe the intentional disconnection from the Western values of efficiency, productivity and multitasking for the purpose of obtaining healing, achieving connection with others, increasing wellness and overall life enrichment. Slow words have literal and symbolic connotations. Words are deployed as the ultimate representation of the wisdom of slowing down, because words are inextricable with our thoughts; our thoughts are often what are most responsible for keeping us mired in a mindset where we readily jeopardize our own health in favor of secondary goals that often do not represent our values.
There are many different metaphors to choose from when considering the wisdom of altering our lifestyles. Reducing speed is most apt because it is the antipode to almost every other dehumanizing burden that society and work places upon us.
Slow Words Wisdom is not a methodology or a quasi-philosophical system. It is an outlook, a perspective, set of values that can be applied. Its objective is to help people find a way forward and out of the dehumanizing routines, mindset and attendant despair foisted upon us by the institutions that attempt to control our lives.
It is a rebellion against the unquestioned tenets of Western society that place other values above the health and wellness of human beings. It is an attempt to unite people to critically examine, question and replace the current culture with one that is more empathetic, compassionate and humane.
But Slow Words Wisdom is not just a protest against what is. It’s a rough attempt at a guide to good living. It’s a veneration of the things that make life worth living and a rejection of those that don’t.
The Case for Slowing Down
The demands on people have increased due to technology. Workers are expected to respond to requests during off-work hours. People in all areas of life expect and demand immediate responses to messages. We have devolved into a society where anything other than immediate gratification of social demands have become anxiety and rage provoking. Advances in telecommunications technology have led to work cultures where there are no boundaries between home and work, and work demands require immediate turnaround.
The nature of communications has raised the bar for efficiency and productivity in order to increase profits through competition with others doing the same thing. The immediacy, frequency and repetitive nature of communications via social media, texting and other outlets has cheapened the quality of those communications to the point where the bulk of it has become meaningless.
People and organizations not only communicate when they have nothing to say, they deliberately engage in social engineering to manipulate emotions in order to nurture the worst in human nature: rage, trolling, bullying, public shaming.
Rage and negativity are intoxicating and have become easy to indulge in, and their attendant behaviors are richly rewarded—often even seen as heroic, especially when attached to a victimhood frame of reference. Increasingly, attempts to counter this negativity with hopeful messages or attempts to find common ground with others are derided as weak, naïve, stupid—threatening even.
Social media also strongly encourages narcissism and self-absorption, whereby each person becomes the center of their own universe with the maintenance of self-esteem and self-concept hinging upon receiving attention in the form of “likes” or other digital trinkets. This world fosters depression and an addiction to continuous feedback for validation as opposed to strength, autonomy and independence. I can’t name a single person who hasn’t fallen prey to it at some time or other.
You Are Where You Live
According to ecological theories of culture, psychology wellbeing, we are the products of our environments. The supreme irony of technology is that we are better connected than ever before, and yet we have completely cut ourselves off from our immediate environments. When was the last time you saw someone in a restaurant, taking a walk (or >gulp< even driving) without looking at their phone at the same time? We spend the vast majority of our time ensconced inside of artificial realities.
Increasingly, thanks to devices like auto-correct, virtual assistants, grammar checkers and other specters of artificial intelligence (AI), during the time we spend interacting with others in these artificial realities we are not even thinking our own thoughts, but those which someone else has chosen for us.
Because of this, the online lives we now live are largely devoid of freedom of thought or freedom to feel, except those thoughts and feelings we have been manipulated into thinking or feeling.
We have been made into kings of our own little kingdoms, but they are lonely kingdoms that look identical to everyone else’s kingdoms. We must continuously chase after the followers, likes, the responses, the validation we need in order to feel whole.
And our carefully curated, stage-managed images that we share with others can often leave us with a sense that we haven’t shown our real selves to the world, that we have not been seen or accepted for who we truly are.
According to the tenets of Attention Restoration Theory (ART) (an evolutionary psychology and ecological psychology frame of reference), human beings are hard-wired for certain tasks and certain environments, and not others. According to the theory, we concentrate better and feel much more relaxed when immersed in nature and viewing scenes in nature, because it’s what we were evolved for, and it is less taxing on our attention systems and our brains. Not only is it less taxing, it has a restorative effect that can help revitalize us.
Human beings did not evolve to sit enthroned and enthralled to a computer screen for 15 hours per day alone, focused on their selves. Being angry, fearful or depressed most of the time is also taxing on our bodies as well as our minds. The poison of social media both catalyzes and exacerbates these effects. The world we live in demands we stay connected. In small doses, we can use social media and communications technology to our advantage, without allowing it to control us, but it may take a conscious effort to push back against the gravity of the powerful social forces that demand our attention in order to reclaim our health and wellbeing.
This is why we need Slow Words Wisdom now more than ever.
Coming up next: Part II: Enacting Slow Words Wisdom