Monday, December 14, 2009

Exploring Slow

Life in the fast lane: multi tasking, 24/7, the 70 hour work week, texting while driving, texting during sex, road rage, fast food, take-out (wrapped in plastic), after-school classes and scheduled sports every afternoon and weekend. If you want to hang on, you’d better speed up.

However, there’s a counter-trend in the world, called the Slow Movement.

Slow Food In 1986 McDonald’s tried to open a shop near the Spanish steps in Rome; this triggered a movement that has spread to over 132 countries. Slow Food aims to preserve and celebrate the cultural cuisine, associated plants and animals and farming practices of an ecoregion. Its aims include forming seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties of local foods, educating the public on the risks of factory farms, pesticides and fast food, teaching gardening to students and prisoners, preserving family farms and reviving home cooked meals with local ingredients from each locale. Family farmers from every continent attend Terra Madre, the bi-annual slow food conference in Italy, The work of Alice Waters to teach students about food and healthy eating through schoolyard gardens, and Michelle Obama’s organic garden on the White House lawn are all related to the slow food movement.

Slow Parenting Children (in middle and upper class families) are generally enrolled in numerous after-school classes and organized sports – while each of these activities is valuable in itself, the result is that there is little time for free play before or after a heavy load of homework. One rationale is that the world is more dangerous, so that unsupervised play outside is risky; another is that such activities are needed for entry to a good high school or college, and another that both parents are working and need after-school childcare. It is hard for parents to find a way out of these problems, but awareness of the child’s need for free play and an individual learning style is a start. The slow parenting movement advises that children should pick their own activities, rather than fulfill their parents’ dreams. Parents should turn off the television and allow children to play with simple toys, make their own breakfast, and explore the out-of-doors whenever possible. ‘Cramming schools’ to push for higher academic results put children under continuous competitive pressure and take away their own creativity and independence. The slow movement has even reached the Ivy League. In a 2005 letter to Harvard students, the Dean advised students not to become overcommitted with athletics, clubs, arts and classes, or to be stretched too thin to appreciate other aspects of college life, including friendships and time to explore unexpected areas of knowledge.

Slow Medicine American medicine manages acute problems and specialized procedures such as organ transplants, eye surgeries and joint replacements extremely well. Chronic diseases that require education, lifestyle changes and home support are often handled less well by overworked doctors and nurses. Slower acting modalities such as appropriate exercise, healthy eating, and meditation are not paid for or readily available. Some elderly patients are subjected to ‘death by intensive care’ when home-based care would be more comforting and comfortable. The ‘slow medicine’ movement sees family, friends, visiting nurses and hospice workers improving the life of older patients at home by offering emotional support, social stimulation, better nutrition and help with sleeping, moving, bathing and other activities. Many towns and cities have organizations providing such services, and they deserve support.

Slow sex The movement for slow food, and enjoying a slower life began in Italy. So did the discussion of slow sex. There are current articles in our popular magazines about what sex researchers found in the 1960’s – the longer the foreplay, the better the climax for both partners. Many women who cannot achieve orgasm in intercourse can easily do so by clitoral stimulation. The Pointer Sisters have a song that lays it out for heterosexual couples - Slow Hand: I want a man with a slow hand – I want a lover with an easy touch….. (YouTube Pointer Sisters – Slow Hand)

The Slow Movement Summed Up:

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Lily Tomlin. “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.” Mae West

In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore

Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting by Carl Honore

Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH back issues on this website

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