““The human mind is fed and nourished by every sight and smell and sound that we encounter, from the movement of the clouds to the shrill of the birds outside our morning window.” To enjoy that nourishment, we need to “refuse and choose,” resisting the siren call of technology whenever possible and allowing ourselves time to slow down and pay attention.”
World Enough and Time by Christian McEwan is book I have been reading, appropriately slowly, for the last couple of years. In 2013 I went on a fantastic week long adventure to a little island off Scotland where Christian and Jan helped us to slow down, guided us to write and supported the creation of art.
“A 2008 survey in the Journal of Socio-Economics claimed that the psychologogical benefits of a friendship were equivalent to a pay-rise of eighty-five thousand pounds”
Christian McEwan, World Enough and Time
The book ‘examines the spiritual and literary underpinnings of slowness and offers inspiration, encouragement, and practical advice for anyone wishing to create time and space for the imagination to flourish’. Full of beautiful writing and inspiring suggestions, I’ve really enjoyed taking my time reading it (yes, pain means I have to read books v v slow but I think this one in particular has benefited from that).
The book looks at ‘Hurry Sickness’, the healing power of real conversation, the value of walking, looking, learning to pause and storytelling etc. I don’t really do book reviews so this isn’t really going to be that, more some musings inspired by the book.
I’ve touched on slowing down before on this blog and over on unlockingimages and whilst much of my slowing down has been forced on me by my health, there is still a lot of value in it. I remember a sunny day, pottering around with my lovely friend who also has EDS. We were talking about how we have to walk more slowly than we used to (I was a fast walker back in the day!) but how it means she notices flowers and sees things she’d miss otherwise. It’s a moment that I come back to again and again. How much more wonderful life would be if we literally stopped to smell the roses instead of rushing and pushing and stressing from place to place in an unnecessary hurry.
We live in a society which doesn’t place much value on doing things for the sake of them, rather we are all supposed to be being productive, all of the time. Again, pain has meant this isn’t possible and has meant I can step back and question that approach. Finding joy in little things and beauty in small moments makes for a happier life. We can’t all have the latest <insert gadget> but we can almost all look out a window and see plants, birds, insects, stars, clouds etc (NB if you’re bed bound and can’t look out a window, could you move your bed?).
“In ancient China, when someone studied calligraphy, he did not simply copy the original. Instead, he spread out the scroll against the wall, and stared at it for a long time. Only when he had, as it were, incorporated it completely, did he finally pick up his brush and begin to work”
Christian McEwan, World Enough and Time
How many people reading that, are thinking what a waste of time, just get the job done? But the beauty in the approach and the deeper connection to the work, makes it much more meaningful. And I feel that it would teach the student so much more.
Pay attention, look closely and even the most mundane seeming thing will be transformed. And that is your power, to take the ordinary and see it as extraordinary. That is what artists and writers and musicians do. And it’s something that is completely accessible to you, whatever your circumstances. You can start now and develop a deeper awareness of your surroundings and in doing so, you can find poetry all around you.
And even better, this time you spend mulling and dreaming and pondering, is time that your mind will use to ruminate over problems and build insights and connections that are completely unrelated. And all of it is free!
The book is full of wonderful insights and magical quotes and I hope I have been able to do justice with my own ponderings. Christian herself is a very thoughful, inspiring woman and it was an honor to have her guidance for a week.
By the way, if you’re interested in spending a week slowing down on Tanera Mor with Jan and another artist, you can book onto the wonderful sounding See Sound, See Shore. If health allowed, I’d be booking on!