English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

In Praise of Slow - How a Worldwide Movement is challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore

Recommended by Pauline Chow

People who know me say that I am a passionately fast person. A friend wrote to me saying “I hope you are not working too hard. You know the expression 'burning the candle at both ends'. I think you may be burning it at all points in between as well!”

That is why when I saw this book in the bookstore, I was attracted by both the title and the illustration on the cover – a turtle and a rabbit. I bought it just to see how the writer argues his case.

Busy people like me are always on the run for more time but God is fair. We all have only 24 hours. To make the best of time, we rush and multi-task and feel proud of ourselves for being efficient. We are fervent worshippers of the Cult of Speed. But every now and then as things become quieter, there is deep down from the bottom of my heart a fear, fear that I am stretching myself too far, fear that I am burning the candle at both ends and the ultimate fear that I would at any minute drop dead. Is that what life is all be? There are so many places I would love to visit, grandchildren I would love to see as they grow up and the list does not end here. I have to slow down. This book has given me all the good reasons to take life easy.

The writer, Carl Honore, emphasizes right at the beginning that his book is not a declaration against speed since we owe so much to speed which “has helped to remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating.” He says that all he wants is for us to stop and remember that “some things cannot, should not, be sped up.” When we force speed, “there is a price to pay.” In fact, there is a Chinese idiom epitomizing the same message: the desire to speed things up ends in not achieving anything at all.

When we examine our own life, this does bring an echo.  Many times in the morning when we boot our computer, we are so impatient and keep clicking the mouse that we ask if the computer is down. How often do we get choked because we are swallowing too fast? Have you ever slipped because you are rushing?  These are but “cheap” prices we are paying for being fast. Think of the higher costs we might have to pay because of the fast life we live. Drivers cut lanes and tail the car in the front in order to arrive faster. Such road manner is the cause of most traffic accidents. Instead of enjoying our food at the table, we gobble our lunch washing it down with a coke. All these are absolutely “dehumanizing” but we are still behaving like this for we feel a sense of guilt when we wind down and are at a loss when we have time in hand to kill.

The book points out in greater details how the Cult of Speed is bringing devastating repercussions on the environment. When farmers do not have the patience to see their chickens or corn grow naturally, they start feeding them with pills and herbicides. We desire to look physically fit and yet feel annoyed to work out for it. We only want a quick fix and so take slimming pills or undergo plastic surgery and we suffer fatal effects.

The book makes us think but there is no urgency to finish it. Just savour one or two chapters when you have time. Take it slowly. After all, that is what the book is about.