I shall preface this piece with an obvious statement: I have no right to tell someone how to live.
In my attempt to keep you interested and keep you from scrolling to the end and saying to yourself TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ as you navigate away to thirty-second videos of people running into glass doors, I’ll tell you right away what this piece will be about. Books, food, and time. In this piece, they are all related. FIND OUT HOW BY READING ON!!!
Books. There’s no denying that we’re in the middle of a technology boom, and that we’ve been in one for quite some time. Gadgets are rendering many items obsolete. Having said that, I can’t call myself a Luddite – the Urchin Movement doesn’t exactly exist on the printed page. Not yet at least.
But as a bookseller, I’m often asked about what the e-reader will mean for the future of real books. Actually, for some (morons) out there, it’s not a question of the printed book’s future as it is the printed book becoming history.
Such ignorant defeatism not only bothers me because it isn’t true, but also because some people think this is a good thing. Progress. Allow me to paraphrase (although I encourage you to read the actual article – it’s not that long!) a post by the Regulator Bookshop in North Carolina, which makes five cases against the Kindle, three of which I will apply to e-readers in general.
1) You read slower on an e-reader.*
2) You almost certainly read stupider on an e-reader.
3) Free Kindles were given to select Princeton students and they hated them (because you read slower and stupider on them).
(*I am aware of the fact that I’m using the fact of slowness in a piece against rushing. But, as you will discover if you KEEP READING!, I am advocating slowing down by choice, not slowing down because the screen is making your entire head hurt.)
But do people care about these facts? I bring up books not only because I’m an advocate but because they represent, in a sense, the stillness of time. Books are time commitments, which is one reason why many people don’t or have stopped reading. I hear this often at the bookshoppe: I’d love to read (more) but I haven’t the time. To this, I tell them: Have you ever gotten lost in a book? You travel into someone else’s world, walk in their boots and swim in their thoughts. You’ve been somewhere else entirely and back, and it’s only been a couple of hours in real time.
[IF YOU’VE STAYED WITH ME THIS FAR, CONGRATULATIONS! YOU AREN’T A VICTIM OF A RAPIDLY DECLINING ATTENTION SPAN! AT LEAST NOT YET. HOW ABOUT NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW?]
Food. In 1986, Carlo Petrini began a campaign against the opening of a McDonald’s on the Spanish Steps in Rome. His effort soon evolved into the Slow Food movement, which would come to embody everything the fast food industry isn’t. In fact, Slow Food aimed to take the industry out of food entirely.
Slow Food emphasised local cuisine as opposed to globalised food preparation. Slow food also emphasised the education of what you are eating, partly through the theory and practice of savouring what you eat. That’s right. You’re actually supposed to taste your food, or what’s called ‘taste education’, in an attempt to understand the ingredients and how the dish was prepared, as opposed to stuffing it all in your face before your ass warms the plastic seat beneath you (unless, of course, you take your meal on the go). Since 1986, the Slow Food movement has taken off, and many restaurants the world over have dedicated their menu, practice, and philosophy to Slow Food.
Imagine going to one of these Slow Food restaurants in Italy, savouring a three-course meal meant to be savoured for that long, cooked with careful and considerate execution by someone who’s probably studied food his or her entire life. Imagine chewing slowly, in between glasses of aged wine and conversation with someone you care about, a lover, a friend, or even someone you’ve just met. Imagine a meal that lasts four hours.
To some people, that would sound like torture. Perhaps it’s something so foreign, so alien to the way we live that we can’t even conceive anyone doing it let alone enjoying it.
Time. People confuse fast living with efficient productivity. There aren’t enough hours in the day! I can’t afford to waste any time! Some people use timelines as a reason to rush. That may apply to your work life, but hey!, aren’t you the boss of your life-life? Additionally, you can adequately screw up a job or task in record time by rushing. Those records are easy to break and, in this age, are broken often.
There aren’t enough hours in the day, so I gotta do what I can in those hours! That’s certainly a popular attitude. But there’s also this attitude: There aren’t enough hours in the day, so I spend them wisely.
How about one day, after work, instead of rushing straight home to eat dinner and call it a night, you stop off somewhere, unwind in a cafe or bar or bookstore or public space. Have a drink, read a few pages of a book, or just sit and let your mind wander. Instead of going straight home and sinking into your furniture, take in your surroundings and let them sink into you. There aren’t enough hours in the day? You’d be surprised at how much longer the day can feel if you just let your mind relax for a bit.
You’ve just worked for eight hours! Don’t you deserve to be somewhere else before the day is over? You’ve let your mind wander. How about your feet? Take a walk, look around. Let everyone rush by you. Who cares if you feel in their way? They’re probably so in a hurry they don’t even notice you. And if they do, they’d just forget you in an instant.