Cecil Andrews. Slow Is Beautiful: New Visions of Community, Leisure and Joie de Vivre. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 2006. Paperback, x + 244 pp.
As the Swiss cultural philosopher noted in his great work The Ever-Present Origin, our modern civilization has a serious problem with time. We are suffering from anxiety over time (Zeitangst), feeling that there is never enough time to do all the things that we think ought to be done. Cecile Andrews, who has a doctoral degree in education from Stanford University and has also authoredCircle of Simplicity, has captured the same thought in her own way in the title of her new book: Slow Is Beautiful.
This work is something like a sustained meditation on how our post-industrial society and especially corporate forces conspire to make us habitually rushed and anxious and how we can (and ought to) extricate ourselves from this vicious cycle.
Her observations are superbly intelligent, honest and astute, and her inevitable criticism of the status quo rings true and is delivered from the rich perspective of her own long history as a community builder. Her delivery is peppered with wit and good humor, which should help those who find her conclusions hard to swallow. So, really, who would disagree with her basic contention: “We need a Slow Superman! A Slackerman! Slower than a popgun bullet! More retro than a locomotive! Able to climb tall buildings one stair at a time! We need a caped hero in the form of a contemporary Thoreau, Gandhi or Socrates” (p. 217).
I must, however, disagree with Kurt Vonnegut (whom Andrews quotes approvingly but perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek at the end of her book) as saying “. . .we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different” (p. 226). More joie de vivre, yes. Loafing, no. Life is too precious to waste away in idle motion, unless we are talking about the inner stillness of contemplation.