I woke up to this question today, a remnant of an already-forgotten dream, and it really rattled me.
The idea that there are hours that are valued less or more than others. Does this mean that there is Time that you can afford to waste? To lose like a spare cent or two that you drop on the street, shrugging it off as it is trampled, as it rolls away into the gutter?
Don’t get me wrong, this is something I’ve done countless times: I’ve scrolled my Time away on social media, fed it to algorithms and data structures, and Time has slipped from my fingers, uncaring.
But also, here’s the thing: I’ve loved wasting some of the time I’ve wasted. I have valued “spare” time more than I have other, valuable (working) time. But these are the kinds of societies we are heading towards or live in, already: ones where work is the single most important aspect of our lives, and all our Time is structured around it. Our lives are divided into “Work” and “Non-work” time, where we view everything else in relation to our jobs and take decisions accordingly: meeting up with old friends, dates, romantic relationships, going to an event, dying our hair, getting a piercing.
I don’t think human beings were made for this. For work that takes this big a chunk out of life, that overpowers all its other facets. I don’t think I am cut out for this (and yet, who really is? We are all thrown into it and we cope the best we can. Who really chooses this kind of lifestyle? No, most people just fall into it and never get back up).
Do we truly have “spare” time? Or is it instead that the value of our Time is being decided using criteria we had no choice over — instead imposed by “society”, itself a grey, hulking mass nobody knows the real identity of. There is no such thing to me as spare time. All Time matters. I could not “spare” even one bit of it. I will not let the world define which parts of my life matter. I will choose that for myself, thank you very much.
All Time is valuable, regardless of how you spend it, so long as it enriches your experience of existence.
But at the same time, do not fret (as I did, as I do) once you realise all moments will not be perfect, that you aren’t always able to make every moment worth it. It matters only that you try. That you seize what you can of Time and make it your own.
“Slow living” is a concept I have been reading about for the past year.
For context and in the words of people more qualified than I am on the subject :
‘ “Slow” encompasses several layers of meaning that go beyond simply “sustainable.” Slow is the opposite of “fast” — fast food, fast money, fast living — and all of the negative consequences “fast” has had for the environment and for the health of people and societies. “Slow” embodies cooperation, respect, sustainability, gratitude and resilience.‘
I have been exploring how others live “slowly”: the careful attention they infuse every aspect of life with(from the practicalities of eating, dressing, consuming to more abstract ideas like living, thinking, creating) and the intention they so mindfully build. All serve as a reminder to slow down as life speeds past us. I have seen these people weave meaning into everyday tasks, into their slices of life so that the routine we are all accustomed to does not become “small” or negligible in any way, like something that you are glad you are done with.
I’ve seen people cherish their Time. Guard it like a temple.
I’ve never wanted to lead the kind of life that makes me say “Thank God It’s Friday” every end of week, as though all the week had been a waste, a drag. Yes, this kind of week happens every now and then. But to have a life that happens to me is not my ideal.
With slow living, I find that everyday is imbued in greater thought—as if the day were a seed you were considering how best to set out: What is the weather going to be like? How do I feed that plant? How do I make it grow? It’s organic, from what I find. And the thought process isn’t meant to be overthinking, not meant to cause worry. It just wants to guide your day to where you want your life to take you.
This is something I often forget in my big-picture-oriented mindset : that life is not just this huge, heaving, mysterious, existentialist, ever-expanding entity. You see, the thing with the big picture is that you can often get lost in it. You see so much that you don’t know where to get started. You don’t know where it’s right to start. Which part of your life deserves most of your immediate attention? Why? And then you start thinking about greater concepts like Time and its constraints and its probable, potential nonexistence. You lose yourself further in this greatness, because however great you are, you are also relatively small.
Some days you are the universe, yes. Other days you are the remnants of a single star. Other days still, you are a face in a crowd.
Slow living makes me realise that. That life is also made of individual days and hours and minutes—none of which deserve to be unremarkable, bland, lacklustre…You don’t have to feel like a face in a crowd even if to the world you are one, some days, most days.
Because it’s about how you feel about your life. How you lead it, regardless of how others perceive it. The everyday can be just as beautiful as the Big Days, is what I am learning. There is much that can be done in a day that is not some major life change. Reading the books you want to read, watching movies that move you and make you laugh, writing, painting, exploring a garden, going cycling, being with friends and family, creating, expressing yourself even if it’s not objectively good. There is so much that makes life worth being lived, every single day. Besides, life can’t all just be Big Events. You cannot derive meaning from the few Big Days then waste your time waiting, waiting for something unexpected to happen. Meaning does not have to come in jerky bursts ; it can be a slow, steady stream following the seasons of life, changing with them.
Slow living is about making the days count. Slowing down and not always taking the highway in life (lots of traffic there), instead taking an interest in the small road that leads to the ocean— a place where you can simply breathe, one slow inhale followed by a shaky exhale. And it’s so grounding.
So it is something I have been trying to implement in my life, to a certain extent. It requires some organisation, will and hard work—but we only have one life here at the very least. It would be a shame to not give it your all. To not go after what you really, truly want because it is hard, because it is uncomfortable.
It’s like the time I found out about magic realism all over again. It felt like looking into a thousand puddles at the same time and seeing myself reflected in every single one of them, if that makes sense. One of my lecturers back then (a really cool person) asked to see everyone’s blogs. With great nervousness and after a lengthy preamble about anonymity did I send him mine. Among other kind things, he mentioned that my writing reminded him of magic realism.
I looked it up and Pfouu!
I think slow living is a natural complement to magic realism. It’s about finding beauty and purpose in the small, everyday things and being grateful for them. Slow living may just be magic realism applied, who knows.
Make no mistake though, I am dying to branch out, too. I find that both magic realism and slow living can give me a bit of a narrow view whenever I dive fully into them. I am in great need of a wider spectrum of life, and will be looking into other ways to live it.
Note : When I say that slow living can give a narrow view, I mean that in my own very personal case. I know there are lots of people out there who lead the most fulfilling lives thanks to slow living, but it is just my personal view that I might need to diversify. Also, I wrote this in February but then convinced myself it wasn’t that good, which is why I am only publishing it now.
“Since when did I need to have all my senses occupied, confounded all at once? Since when have I been fighting the silence of my own soul? “
I wonder who I was before I had a smartphone? It might seem silly but…how did I take my meals before, if not before a phone screen? (Probably in front of the TV, my mind supplies). But why do I need a distraction from food? Food is delicious. An all-consuming kind of experience all on its own. And yet why?
Since when did I need to have all my senses occupied, confounded all at once? Since when have I been fighting the silence of my own soul? The kind that is without distraction. A silence of the eyes, the mouth, the ears, the mind. I feel as though all these voices from outside have shut the one from within, drowning it out in noise, its message lost in the static. No, truly, it has become hard to do nothing. It has become hard to just be. Scrolling down newsfeeds, giving likes, that is the new nothing.
But lately, I have been longing for a deep breath the way a smoker craves the scent and feel of nicotine in their throat. I have been yearning to do nothing. To air out my mind the way you air out a dress that has been stuffed in the back of a closet for too long. The insides of my brains have turned musty. So now, I have this wild desire to have my brain cells caressed by the breeze, to let the coolness of a zephyr tickle my thoughts, turning them crisp and fresh again. I have had enough of this prison of the senses. I do not want to be entertained. I do not wish to be distracted from myself, from the truths swirling inside of me.
I kindof just want to be, away from this unromantic little addiction.
Note: This is a late entry for Day 16 of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can read the entry for Day 15 here. This is a bit different from what I usually write, a little less whimsical and not something I expected to write for NaNoWriMo but hey, phones might not be very romantic to write about but they’re still a thing.