Finding Time

09-07-Solnit 450

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF MY APOCALYPSE are called Efficiency, Convenience, Profitability, and Security, and in their names, crimes against poetry, pleasure, sociability, and the very largeness of the world are daily, hourly, constantly carried out. These marauding horsemen are deployed by technophiles, advertisers, and profiteers to assault the nameless pleasures and meanings that knit together our lives and expand our horizons.

I’m listening to a man on the radio describe how great it is that there are websites where musicians who have never met or conversed or had any contact at all can lay down tracks together to make songs. While the experiment sounds interesting, the assumption sounds scary — that the complex personal, creative, and cultural collaborations of music-making could be unnecessary and you just need the digital conjunction of some skill sets. The speaker seems to believe that the sole goal is the production of songs, sundered from the production of social ties and social pleasure. But music has always been an occasion for people to get together — in rehearsals, nightclubs, parties, festivals, park band-shells, parades, and other social spaces. It is often the soundtrack to bodies in conjunction, whether marching or making love.

Ensemble music made in solitude is a very different thing; as a norm it signifies a loss. The loss is subtle and hard to describe, especially compared to the wonders of what can be uploaded, downloaded, and Googled, and the convenience and safety of never leaving your house or never meeting a stranger. The radio rave comes a few days after I talk to a book editor who’s trying to articulate what goes missing when you go to for books: the absence of the opportunities for browsing, for finding what you don’t know you’re looking for or can’t describe in a key-word search. A digital storefront can lead you to your goal if you know exactly how to spell it, but it shows you next to nothing on the way; it prevents your world from getting significantly or surprisingly larger. The virtual version rips out the heart of the thing, shrink-wraps it, sticks a barcode on, and throws the rest away. This horseman is called Efficiency. He is followed by the horseman called Profitability. Along with Convenience, they trample underfoot the subtle encounters that suffuse a life with meaning.

The problem is partly one of language. The language of commerce has been engineered to describe the overt purpose of a thing, but cannot encompass fringe benefits or peripheral pleasures. It weighs the obvious against what in its terms are incomprehensible. When I drive from here to there, speed, privacy, control, and safety are easy to claim. When I walk, what happens is more vague, more ambiguous — and in many circumstances much richer. I am out in the world. It’s exercise, though not so quantifiably as on a treadmill in a gym with a digital readout. It’s myriad little epiphanies and encounters that knit me more tightly into my place and maybe enhance the place overall. The carbon emissions are essentially nil. Many more benefits are more subjective, more ethereal — and more wordy. You can’t describe them in a few familiar phrases; and if you’re not practiced at describing them, you may not be able to articulate them at all. It is difficult to value what cannot be named. Since someone makes money every time you buy a car or fill it up, there’s a whole commercial language built around getting us to drive; there’s little or no language promoting the free act of walking. Have you not driven a Ford lately?

Even the idea of security illustrates the constant conflict between the familiar and the intricate. When I drive, I have a large steel and glass carapace wrapped around me and my contact with other human beings is largely limited to colliding with their large metal carapaces at various speeds or their unbuffered bodies in crosswalks. Fifty thousand or so people a year are killed by cars in this country, but its citizens officially believe that safety lies in the lack of contact that cars offer. Walkers make a place safer for the whole community — what Jane Jacobs called “eyes on the street” — and in turn become more street-smart themselves. Too, safety is a reductive term for what being at home in the world or the neighborhood can provide. This is a more nebulous kind of security, but a deeper and broader one. It is marked by expansiveness, not defensiveness.

Walking versus driving is an easy setup, but the same problem applies to most of the technological changes we embrace and many of the material and spatial ones. The gains are simple and we know the adjectives: convenient, efficient, safe, fast, predictable, productive. All good things for a machine, but lost in the list is the language to argue that we are not machines and our lives include all sorts of subtleties — epiphanies, alliances, associations, meanings, purposes, pleasures — that engineers cannot design, factories cannot build, computers cannot measure, and marketers will not sell. What we cannot describe vanishes into the ether, and so what begins as a problem of language ends as one of the broadest tragedies of our lives.

This is most manifest in the life of the suburban commuter who weekly spends a dozen or more hours on the road between the putative dream house and the workplace, caught in the gridlock of tens of thousands likewise trying to move from the residential-warehousing periphery to the economically productive inner rings. Space is quantifiable and we are constantly taught to covet it (though leisure is advertised too — mostly as vacation packages). You can own those two thousand square feet including two-car garage, and it is literally real, the real in real estate. But to have this space you give up time, the time that you might be spending with the kids who are housed in the image of domestic tranquility but not actually particularly well nurtured by their absentee parents, or time spent immersed in community life or making things with your own hands or doing nothing at all — a lost art. You give up time, and you often give up the far more than two thousand square feet that you don’t own but get to enjoy when you live in, say, a rented apartment in a neighborhood full of amenities nobody advertised to you, because you don’t have to buy the public pool or playground that your kids don’t need to be driven to. The language of real-estate ownership is loud, clear, and drilled into us daily; the language of public life and leisure time is rarer and more complex.

People elsewhere are better at this language. At a certain fork in the road of automatization, Europeans chose to have more time, and they work far less than we do and get much longer vacations. We chose to have more stuff, the stuff sold to us through those beckoning adjectives — bigger, better, faster: Jet Skis, extra cars, second homes, motor homes, towering slab TVs, if not the time to enjoy them or to enjoy less commodified pleasures. These may be the wages of inarticulateness.

The conundrum is that the language to describe the ineffable splendors and possibilities of our lives takes time to master, takes a certain unhurried engagement with the tasks of description, assessment, critique, and conversation; that to speak this slow language you must slow down, and to slow down you must have some inkling of what you will gain by doing so. It’s not an elite language; nomadic and remote tribal peoples are now quite good at picking and choosing from development’s cascade of new toys, and so are some of the cash-poor, culture-rich people in places like Louisiana. Poetry is good training in speaking it, and skepticism is helpful in rejecting the four horsemen of this apocalypse, but they both require a mind that likes to roam around and the time in which to do it.

Ultimately, I believe that slowness is an act of resistance, not because slowness is a good in itself but because of all that it makes room for, the things that don’t get measured and can’t be bought.

Rebecca Solnit is a writer, historian, and activist. She is the author of seventeen books including Men Explain Things To Me (2014), Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (2013), and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Midwest (2004) . She is a columnist for Orion, and a regular contributor to the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch daily newsgram.



  1. I have never met Rebecca Solnit, but have followed with interest her journey. She and David, her brother, have collaborated with our Franciscans in our anti-nuclear (Neveada Desert Experience), non-violent social change (Pace e Bene) and homeless efforts over the last couple of decades.

    As a Franciscan, Rebecca’s reflections mirror my own. St. Francis of Assisi calls us to slow down, to pray seeking a deeper intimate relationship with God; to “see” the beauty in the world around us (Creation, it is good!) and to live more simply, with less things.

    When I have lived in poor friaries inserted into poor neighborhoods, I have found the simple life easier than when I have lived in more institutional friaries.

    In the poor friaries, there is less things, but more time for each other and those with whom our lives intertwine. In the more institutional friaries, life is more hurried and there is less time for each other and those who “interrupt” our lives.

    Transportation is also a factor–when we walk, bike or take public tranportation it is a more humbling way to travel, than surrounded by the hundreds of pounds of a car.

    St. Francis made a big thing about not accepting money. Few people know, he also asked the friars to not ride horses (the cars of his day). He wanted them to walk.

    For U. S. friars in the 21st century it would be extraordinary to not drive or fly. But maybe we can walk or bike more, take the car less. Maybe we can take the Greyhound more and fly less.

    We still have the tradition of sending out missionaries to foreign lands (or to Native American cultures) where it is expected to make those life-style changes that simplify and slow down our lives.

    But living in the U. S., it takes a daily conscious choice to take time to pray, to slow down, to live with less things.

    This friar resonates with Rebecca’s act of resistance to slow down.

  2. Another idea. How about inviting all the American’s and the world for that matter, to just slow down and drive the speed limit. A baby step but one which our group in Minnesota has been advocating for over 18 month’s. Here’s how it work’s

    We borrowed the orange slow moving vehicle symbol, found on the back of tractor’s and buggies, and greened it. Our local printer did a graphically perfect symbol for our action. The shape is essentially a triangle, so on each edge the “educator” encourages driver’s to “DRIVE EASY…CONSERVE”

    We started printing magnets, sticker’s and micro “dashboard reminders” and spread them around to friend’s and group’s throughout Mn. and Wi. The action is simple, free, and effective. It get’s everybody involved and open to action. As soon as they put the key in the ignition, the micro dashboard reminder…cost .02 cents encourages them to slow down and conserve time and fossil fuels. Well why not? Agreed it is a baby step but it get’s people thinking and involved. To date we have sent out over 20,000 “educator’s”. We sent a large order to Ireland and a rotary club in central Mexico put the symbol in spanish and placed a mountain in the center replacing our Pine Tree. Their first printing was 3,000 in the state of Queretaro.

    Well imagine if you can slow the world down just 5 mph. I think John would dig the idea. Anyway, you can check us out at Get in touch and share some comments or criticism. Let’s here it for the grassroot’s

    Fulton Hanson
    rural Pine County, Minnesota

  3. Fulton Hanson and Rebecca Solnit certainly have important things to say about the need for us to slow down, go slower, smell the flowers, appreciate the world. I am for everything they are advocating and doing. At least to me, they are exemplars.

    Having said this, I am also deeply concerned because, as a community, human beings appear to be moving much too slowly to adjust to the practical requirements of biophysical reality by choosing necessary behavior changes. This means we have to find alternatives to the huge scale and rapid growth rate of certain distinctly human activities now overspreading the surface of the celestial orb upon which God blesses us to live so well.

    Somehow, soon, human beings have to become more successful in communicating about some things which are currently taboo, socially unpopular, politically incorrect and economically inexpedient. For example, there is a need now for us to share widely the awareness that there can be no such thing as a successful global economy without the resources and ecosystem services provided by an adequately functioning Earth.

    Failing that, humankind might choose to deny the reality of the bounded, finite world we inhabit and to pursue a primrose path marked by trying to grow our way out of the distinctly human-driven predicament in which we find ourselves in these early years of Century XXI. By that I mean we choose a patently unsustainable path to the future which calls for the unbridled increase of human population numbers, of per capita consumption of resources, and of the world economy in our small, noticeably frangible planetary home. The pursuit of this endless growth strategy, one which adamantly advocates more of the same, outworn, environmentally degrading business-as-usual activities we see so predominantly in our culture today, could produce a colossal wreckage, even greater and more catastrophic than the one seen by Ozymandias, king of kings.

  4. One advantage of taking things more slowly is when you see something that needs doing, you can stop and do it. If you’re moving too fast you don’t even see what needs to be done so the problem gets bigger and bigger until you have no choice but to stop and deal with it ’cause it’s screaming at you. I think this is one reason we’re moving so slowly in dealing with climate change – everybody is just so busy and everything we have to do is deemed so very important. I wonder if this isn’t contributing to the disconnect we experience in our daily lives between the reality and frightening impacts of climate change and our ongoing daily lives that continue on and on and on as if everything is just fine. It’s crazy-making and, in my opinion, is extremely disempowering. slowing down and simplifying would be a real gift to the Earth in many ways.

  5. Struggling daily with urges to slow down and simplify, it’s wonderful to find an article like this to bolster my resolve. I know it’s the right way to go, but often feel more isolated in this chosen path when much of the world seems to view progress as the exact opposite.

  6. I’m about three-quarters of the way through WANDERLUST, Rebecca Solnit’s exceptional and to me essential investigation of walking, originally published in 2000.

    Alone among the many books on walking, Solnit’s proceeds from the understanding that in addition to being a mode of transportation and a form of exercise, walking is an activity that compels us FOR ITS OWN SAKE, for reasons that are a little less mysterious because of Solnit’s work.

    In this short ORION piece, Solnit doesn’t romanticize slowness as a charming remnant of an earlier time. She characterizes it instead as an act of resistance to the coercions of consumer culture.

    I think such resistance contains within it a cultural critique that many people find deeply disturbing. That critique suggests that a corporate/consumerist reality is not the only one. It asserts that those who give up consumer gadgets and toys and the push for ever greater security, efficiency and convenience seem to spend a lot more time doing things they enjoy–rather than working more to be able to buy more stuff.

    I really appreciate the opportunity to read Solnit’s work in ORION and I intend to make those words more convincing by subscribing.

  7. Dear Dan Icolari,

    Very interesting perspective. One that is new to me.

    Within the context of “resistance” that you describe so neatly, I would like to ask how you would understand “civil disobedience”? In particular, how might a person meaningfully strengthen ones resistance activities toward the point of civil disobedience but still break no laws?

    What would strengthened resistance look like?



  8. Thanks, Steve Salmony, for responding to my comment about Rebecca Solnit’s piece on slowness.

    I turn into an out-of-control ranter when I reflect on the business-as-usual attitude of most Americans toward the accelerating crisis that now seems unavoidable.

    Most seem convinced a technological fix will save them from experiencing the slightest discomfort or inconvenience–or from having to alter their behavior even a little. Either that, or they’ve decided to disengage completely and go shopping.

    Unless I’m misreading Solnit, I think she is arguing for alertness, awareness, and a conscious refusal to buy into the program global capitalism promotes relentlessly, which is meant to transform every aspect of our public and private lives into a platform for brand, product and service promotion.

    To me, resistance doesn’t mean civil disobedience–at least not now, not yet. Rather, it means:

    •refusing to be the passive receiver of any sort of marketing communication–print, cable, direct mail, broadcast or telemarketing;

    •living happily, more simply and less distractedly without the latest must-have technologies

    •spending time reading, writing, gardening, walking, volunteering and being involved with friends, family and one’s community, rather than accepting the default options of consuming, shopping, watching TV, and interacting not with people but with gadgets;

    •buying less and buying for cash, except when credit-card use is unavoidable;

    •and, more generally, taking charge of the shape, content and direction of one’s own life rather than have it dictated by corporate growth and profit strategies.

    My idea of resistance is not civil disobedience–at least, not yet. Rather, resistance to me means constructing a low-maintenance life of independence and real personal choice rather than the bogus consumer choices they tell us are the only ones that really matter.

    I hope this is a satisfactory response to your comment.

  9. Excellent ideas on personal resistance, Dan. Resisting the push towards over-consumption is important. If only more people would join in. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be happening. The town next to mine, just over the NH border, Conway, already too developed with discount shopping outlets and corporate chains in malls (NH has no sales tax) has approved seven more buildings in a new mall complex, this in addition to probably 50 already in town on what locals call “the strip”. I just read about it yesterday and it is so depressing.

    I have to say in my heart of hearts I support all efforts of civil disobedience re: climate change and I hope there will be more and more such actions in the not too distant future because our situation is so very dire and we must do something about it. I know some people will be turned off by it, they always are, but as the number of participants increases and the climate worsens to the point where we’re all feeling it (as many already are), I think it will be difficult to keep so-called ordinary people off the streets. Meanwhile we must resist as much as we can and encourage others and our communities to resist as well.

  10. Thanks for your comment, Susan Meeker-Lowry.

    I think civil disobedience can be an appropriate tactic, used sparingly and strategically. It is a tangible form of resistance, certainly, but a public one. The resistance I was thinking of is internal and ruminative; personal, not public.

    In my life, this resistance includes an attempt to be conscious–to claim my mind, my time and my life for my purposes, not surrender them to someone else’s corporate, ideological or personal agenda; to remember lessons learned; to be skeptical, especially about commercial or political speech; and to be clear about what really matters to me.

    I can see civil disobedience playing a role in the struggles that almost certainly are coming, however much this tactic may turn people off. But I think we have a lot more organizing and consciousness-raising to do first. Otherwise, in my opinion, we’ll just be talking to ourselves.

  11. Dear Dan and Susan,

    Thanks to both of you for clarifying the terms, “personal resistance” and “civil disobedience.”

    It seems to me that the human world (like the natural order of living things) is organized in hierarchies. While the biophysical world has perfectly designed, natural, sustainable hierarchies, the hierarchies in the human world are imperfect, artificially designed, soon to become patently unsustainable, logical contrivances that serve the purpose of perpetuating the domination of elite groups whose primary intention is to maintain their power, influence, status and privileges. Whereas natural hierarchies are not prejudicial, human hierarchies are deeply so. They favor a relatively small minority of people in the highest levels of the hierarchical structures.

    If this a reasonable and sensible analysis, then it is possible for us see that the sources of political influence, military power, social status and privileges could reside primarily in the hands of people who have individually accumulated and then consolidate together their great wealth.

    Now to my point.

    If several million people with most of the world’s wealth actually control the military power of modern nation-states and the global political economy, then how do billions of people comprising most of humanity meaningfully and favorably assert themselves in the name of protecting life as we know it and preserving the integrity of our planetary home?

    Within the global context of a grossly overgrown human world marked by millions of obese consumers and unbridled producers functioning in self-serving, flawed, human designed, unsustainable hierarchical structures, in which billions of human beings are impoverished, biodiversity is massively extirpated, the environment irreversibly degraded, natural resources reckless dissipated and humanity endangered, what can the words, PEOPLE POWER or POWER TO THE PEOPLE mean?

    Always with thanks,


  12. Power to the People was a rallying cry and is now a cliché, used most often these days to evoke a time period, not an idea.

    I marched on my first picket line when I was about 10, protesting what my family considered the railroading of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as spies for the then Soviet Union.

    In about 1963, my new wife and I marched in protest of President Kennedy’s introduction into Vietnam of so-called military advisors, before Vietnam was the name of a war. We marched, on and off, in opposition to that war for the next ten-or-so years.

    Advance the clock about 30 years and where do you find me? On a picket line, protesting the first Gulf War. That sad, sparsely attended picket line, and George Herbert Walker Bush’s ability to institute an information freeze on war news, taught me that all the tactics we learned in various movements–civil rights, environmental degradation, feminism, civil liberties, gay liberation, worker safety, right to know, equal access for the disabled, among many others–had become impotent.

    I saw that such tactics had become mere symbolic gestures as predictable as the National Association of Manufacturers decrying a raise in the minimum wage as a threat to the American way of life.

    I still march on protest lines, donate to organizations working in social and economic justice, make calls, write letters and send e-mails, but the one effort most likely to succeed, even if only in part, is the effort–imperfect and inconsistent–to try and live what I say I believe.

  13. Dear Dan,

    Yours is a remarkable testimonial. Thank you for it.

    As I sit here thinking about the report you have given us, a keen sense of foreboding has overtaken me because it appears the nation I have regarded as the greatest on Earth is leading the world into very turbulent times…..into a potentially ghastly future. There are moments like this one when I find myself imagining that all of us (the human species and other species) are on a huge stage upon which a classical Greek tragedy, more threatening to and colossally destructive of the sacred than any heretofore written, is being played out. In this “play” the human species is literally in charge of the whole world and the USA is its leader, as a consequence of the overwhelming economic and military power it currently harnesses.

    So life marches forward, in a seemingly inexorable way, down what looks like a “primrose path,” toward the unwelcome future with which our children are likely to confronted.

    I hope circumstances in the unfolding “play” will prove me wrong, but I believe our children will look back at us in anger and utter disbelief at all that their elders have done and failed to do with our responsibilities to lead because what are doing with our stupendous wealth and and “over the top” military power amounts to literally “selling out” our own young people and to robbing them of a future. We are now-here. The many actions of those in my not-so-great generation appear to be leading our children toward no-where.

    When asked about the future, a current leading elder of the world’s preeminent military as well as the global political economy may have unwittingly told the truth about what he envisions for our children in four words, “We’ll all be dead.”

    Not one of us who has reviewed at least some of recorded history or lived in the world as we know it has witnessed what appears already darkly visible on the far horizon…except, perhaps, for Ozymandias, king of kings.



  14. For me, there is something supremely ironic in the awarding of a Nobel Prize to a banker named Muhammad. There are plenty of successful bankers in New York City alone. Has one of them ever been nominated for such a prize? Why is Mr. Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, a banker described by many people worldwide as a “banker to the poor,” selected for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize?

    I suppose it is because nowhere else on the surface of the Earth can anyone find another banker who is not servicing the rich and powerful and, therefore, willing to say something like, “Everybody is busy buying, everybody is busy consuming, but they don’t realize how much of the exhaustible resources that we are using up by this wasteful way of living, the lifestyle. So we need to look for a new kind of lifestyle, which will be consistent with the resources that we have in this world.”

    The successful bankers I have met in the course of time uniformly display a certain imperious reserve associated with excessive wealth and power as well as a willful religiosity that forbids them from speaking out loudly and clearly about such things. Perhaps they will tell you what I have been told for many years, SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

  15. Hi, I wanted to talk about the idea of slowing down and technology, if it seems that I am just repeating a subject that yall have allready discussed, sorry about that. To me, slowing down means taking time to think about something, observe things that I would not notice if i did not consciously acknowlege my slowing down. I have hiked on the Appalachian Trail a few times, and have noticed that I “slowdown” without consciously choosing too. I believe that it was in the absense of technolgy that causes me to look at the “romantic” side of the trail instead of the “classic” side. Therefore, technology is a clock on the dashboard of a car that tells us how fast we need be to not be late. The speedometor tells us how fast we are going and how fast we are NOT going. On the AT, I did not wear a watch because I wanted to run my own life without the need to speed up based on technology, but based on me. In the classic world, with deadlines, jobs, paychecks, and cars, life is not based on me, but on the big machines of corperations and clocks. If all this is true, are we not all just working for a big, black and white clock that has a fourth hand, the hand that has the power to kill?

  16. Unless I read you wrong, Chuck, it seems to me you’re talking about the need to maintain a state of awareness, call it consciousness, that will permit you to earn a living and discharge your other obligations with a certain amount of detachment.

    This detachment is not the sort we see all around us, with people perpetually on their cell phones, never satisfied with where they are, always needing to project themselves into some other place, anyplace but this place.

    What they’ve done, in my opinion, is to accept completely uncritically whatever cultural values, technologies and other consumer widgets (including abstractions like fashion or style or design) that the corporations disgorge. In this universe, the only significant change is a change of product. Or brand.

    No, the detachment I’m talking about is a kind of clarity about the world and one’s place in it. That clarity underlies a type of freedom one can enjoy even at the office, even on the factory floor.

    When you have that kind of clarity, work still consumes much of your free time, but you’re not defined by it. Your interests are not bound up in the endless cycle of production and consumption that we’re told life is all about.

    If your freedom consists of nothing else, it consists of this: You know that the version of what’s real promoted by those with money and power is a total sham. And they know you know it. And it makes them very nervous.

    If you don’t want the version of reality they’re selling, they have no power over you. That sounds like freedom to me.

  17. Always thoughtful comments. Reality and being here now rather than projecting someplace else. As if the here and now is so complete and satisfying. We can’t trash cell phones as we type away on computer’s and explore this safe area called cyber-space. How many people at this exact time are sitting in front of a computer, just in our own bioregion?
    Iv’e lived in the woods in rural northern MN since 1970. Dome building, gardening, communing with 24 other homesteader’s for almost 40 year’s. Iv’e never held a regular job, but rather been self employed…doing anything to survive. I’ve raised four great kid’s and managed to get them all through college and on their way. Remember, when you live on the edge of society, you don’t receive the paid vacation’s, sick pay, health insurance, coffee break’s etc. When I hear people complaining about this and that…I think that they should try going out on their own. I mean really on your own. You and the tree’s if you know what I mean.

    So after all that time, living totally free, my neighbor felt that I needed this computer to complete my life. So here I am on a beautiful Friday evening, throwing thought’s out into cyberspace…why. I have great neighbor, living a very zen existence. He didn’t buy this old computer, he assembled it out of old part’s and made it work. He also got me working again…
    Our little effort to help people everywhere to actually, physically, slow down…and live.
    everbody take care and put some energy toward a green and sustainable future for all. Remember to keep hope alive.

  18. May I so humbly rebuke the improper english of the good friar David Buer. For example, “less things.” “Less” refers to volume, “fewer” refers to individual objects. Therefore, it is “fewer things”, “less time”, “fewer cars”, “less water”,
    etc. Maybe, those of us who will actually take our lives back and slow down, will think about our articulation of language and be impeccable at it.

  19. Slowing down is one of the best perks of retirement. There may be less income, you may miss the routine, but there is now time to wander through museums, galleries, the park. Walking around wherever and whenever you want – dawdling here in a shop with interesting staff, talking to someone beside you in the subway (yes, some of us still do that on occasion). Ms Solnit’s article is so true – you should try what she suggests!

  20. While agreeing with most of the points in Rebecca Solnit’s essay, I find it ironic that she starts out citing “Efficiency” as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse, before making some concise, insightful comments about car culture.

    If one wants to criticize car culture, it seems to me, “Inefficiency” is the obvious fault.

    What could be less efficient than a personal transport tool that uses a 3000 pound carriage for each 150 pounds of flesh? If one were to design such a system, for scores of millions of people, the perfectly logical expectation would be that huge roadways and parking lots would be required, which would push dwellings and work places ever farther apart; and yet, whenever a large part of the population tried to move around at once, speeds would drop to horse-and-buggy levels.

    Although marvellous levels of efficiency have been applied to the production of cars, the actual product is a perfect engine of waste, inefficiency taken to truly absurd lengths. Please don’t malign the word “efficiency” by associating it with car culture.

    If you want to talk about “efficiency”, please look to the bicycle, the most efficient tool of transportation yet invented, but hardly a horseman of the apocalypse.

  21. I second that, Bart.

    I can agree that convenience implies compromise and profitability implies crassness, that from security follows languor and eventually paralysis. But her decision to criticize “efficiency” as well is a rhetorical misstep. This word must be reserved for that which is not less than adequate — and it is by questioning the adequacy of cultural alternatives (should musicians seek collaboration online, or in person? should we pay exorbitant costs to stay at the cutting edge of technology? etc.) that we can identify and set aside the dehumanizing products of commerce.

    The time to garden–to volunteer–to meditate–to read–is a luxury. In every community that has made time for such activities commonplace, this has come either by exploitation of an out-group or adherence to the principle of efficiency.

  22. I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of Solnit’s article & of most comments so far, but I’m skeptical about black-&-white arguments. Going slow or fast is a choice, as is integrating the former with the latter. Today I used a web site to connect me quickly to this article & your comments so I’d have the opportunity to dwell upon interesting ideas & react to them. Is that fast or slow?

    Or, when I drive somewhere as I did this morning & listened carefully to Shirley Horn sing in her uniquely leisurely way: fast or slow?

    Or, to use Amazon when I can’t find something in the many bookshops nearby?

    Yes, we do see more when we walk & go slowly. But that isn’t everything.


  23. Rather disingenuous way to introduce your theories to the conversation Luke. Why don’t you simply make a point in this thread, rather than coyly redirecting people to your thoughts elsewhere on the web?

  24. Well, ok, Zack. How about this:

    In July of 1976, a Gallup Poll of the American people asked the following question:

    As a new way to live in America, it has been suggested that we build our factories in the countryside and run them on part-time jobs. Under this arrangement both parents would work three days a week and six hours a day, and in their spare time would build their own houses, cultivate gardens, and pursue other leisure-time activities. How interested would you be in living this way?

    Two-thirds of the American public expressed interest in the idea, including nearly half who said that they would definitely or probably like to live this way. They represented a true cross-section of America, drawn from all ages, regions, and levels of society.

    Would a similar number of Americans answer the same way if asked the same question today? Given the present state of society and the world we live in, it seems very likely they would — in which case this little essay should find an audience. For in it the youth who originally commissioned that poll, now grown older and wiser, has distilled the fruit of a lifetime of reflection and research into the practical possibilities of just such an arrangement. The result is a guidebook to a new dispensation, whose aim is to inspire a new generation of Americans to take the future into their hands and shape it closer to their heart’s desire.

  25. I agree that it is a pity that with all the technological conveniences and time-saving devices we have that our ancestors didn’t, we tend not to take advantage of this to spend more time just appreciating beauty. But this is a matter of choice. If you want to, you can have a much more fulfilling life than your ancestors whose lives were full of toil.

    Also, I would argue that economic prosperity has always benefited the Arts. “The Renaissance” isn’t called that for nothing.

    At the grassroots level, it is observable that the more prosperous people are, the more people are taking music lessons and providing their children with the same.

    Furthermore, it is possible today to make acquaintance with more of the great repertoire than most of our ancestors. I wonder what the great composers themselves would have thought of the ability to acquaint themselves with recorded performances of ALL of the works of each other.

    Some may argue that controlled economies like the former Soviet Union are better for the advancement of Art. It probably depends who you are. Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, and numerous other great artists voted with their feet and many others probably would have liked to. Some of these emigres were full of praise for the freedom and prosperity that they lived in the midst of in the U.S.A.

  26. All the comments seem to refer to militate against changes. I am in favor of the changes since they help me. What I do NOT like is the way communication is corrupted so that the changes become undesirable and communication does NOT take place. The result is war, killing, political lies and all other things flowing from using language to make all things have undesirable meaning.

  27. I like the ideas expressed so far but I’d like to add another perspective. Slowing down, taking control, resisting bulldozing consumerism are all good ideas but I think it helps to understand more of why they are good ideas. We all know that they make us feel good in some way, but why?

    I think it is because of our evolutionary development. The evolution of our species has created a creature that derives satisfaction from direct, physical, productive interaction with the environment, and beneficial interactions with other people. Those who embodied those traits most strongly passed their genes on in larger numbers than others. So we have inherited those affinities. And so much of what has been decried in the article and this forum is antithetical to those affinities. What we feel is not just a vague uneasiness with crass consumerism, but a grating discord between the day-to-day content of our lives and what we have evolved to value. I am hopeful that an understanding of this very real causal link between the current state of affairs and our angst will motivate more folks to act on their apprehension.

  28. It’s an old idea that should be incorporated into this new ecological ethic, Bob; cf. “Civilization and its Discontents;” Marx’s characterization of man as a producer; on it goes.

  29. What could possibly make us want to forsake all of these pleasures of life? Are we mere children, easily diverted from our wholesome play by some tawdry trinkets? Or is it that WE are Ok but it is THEY who are being used and misled.
    If so then let us say so and inform those less aware of just what they are giving up, or, if we were once one of THEM, let us teach
    the unfortunate how they too may
    join us in our celebration of life.

  30. A metaphysical entity in the internet has been posited. Whether or not this is so I’m not sure. But what is clear, is that we are all busily teaching the internet much of what we’ve come to know. Culture, contemporary and past, in symbols, signs and traces and tropes can be found, analyses appended and attached. These, can be used to sway and motivate, coerce and convince. Always, there is a goal. The goal is always more, more offspring, more fertility, more activity here beneath the sun.

    It has always been good to see one’s culture, with its specific description of the founding of the universe prevail. This meant safety- not in the sense that I am safe from harm – but safe in the sense that I am near the creator and exist within a defined realm.

    In our time something has slipped. The techniques that we use to satisfy material wants have become so sufficient, so capable that the undergirding and overarching stories that once formed the matrix that the techniques served within have been supplanted by the techniques themselves. This should not be surprising- virtuosity always dazzles.

    In part, it seems to me, we are sad because techniques cannot fill all roles in a human culture. (Also, human culture cannot be chosen. Unfairly, it is either inherited or not.)

    So, the technophilic west has seen several cohorts inculcated in The way of The Machine. Now, the elaboration of techniques themselves and their constant evolution has come to supplant aspects of culture formerly filled with rites and practices that commemorated the origin and sought to guarantee its continuation. Given this shift in gaze, we are left to adulate the great successes of these techniques, to which, after all, many of our relatives have contributed.

    But now, we in the west have consummated our alliance with these techniques and many will wish to further the alliance. There will be an increasing move to wed, to hybridize with, to come to embody the capacities of the techniques themselves. Some of these neo will find in their part-human souls a wish to rehabilitate the myths, new culture heroes will have epiphanies and some will be cogent enough to become refulgent with numinous awe. A new time of Titans may be looming, hybrid machine-humans using the nearing omnipotent material means to reestablish a zone of meaning. To rehabilitate the forms that facilitate and people dreams.

    The internet may be the education of this titanic punctuation of the human equilibrium. That we should be somewhat disoriented and uncertain seems only natural. This is what it must feel like to be outmoded.

  31. I have one problem with this article- I agree with the second half- but I absolutely recoil from the first. The conclusion does not follow from Solnit’s assessment of music making in the internet.
    So I feel quite mixed about the piece as a whole. The first paragraph reminds me somewhat of Max Nordeau’s “degeneration” published at the beginning of the twentieth century: the author blamed what he considered the cultural and moral crisis at the time on the agitation of train travel and “postal intercourse”. To speak out against new forms of artistic practice and aesthetic technologies is dangerous- even if only because of how quaint the argument will look in only a few years. For this reason- I dismiss the second half on principal- for she has already alienated this reader. It is a shame- because I sense there are some interesting points in there- that just need some other kind of couching. I blame couches! We shoudl have wooden furniture. . .

  32. There’s one thing that sticks out to me like a very sore thumb every time I read a piece by an environmentalist highlighting all the things that are wrong about our lives and attitudes, lamenting our societal disconnection from the natural world, and exhorting us all to slow down and smell the soil.

    It’s this. Lamenting our societal disconnection from the natural world simply perpetuates the illusion of disconnection. The fact is, we ARE part of the natural world, whatever perceptual twists and distortions we might delude ourselves with, and as subject to its cyclical processes and trends as any other living thing. Being part of it, we can’t possibly do anything other than be part of it, doing what comes naturally. (Imagining otherwise is mostly hubris and species chauvanism.)

    Rather than trying to resist by suppressing the drive, or applying it purely to self-serving ends, could we consider what our collective imperative towards speed, efficiency and urgency might be a response to? Ask the question “As I am a cell in the body of the Earth and responding to its needs, why do I have a sense of urgency and feel this drive for speed and efficiency?” The answer seems pretty obvious.

    I disagree with the book editor who thinks opportunities for finding what you didn’t know what you were looking for don’t exist on the internet. Quite the opposite. I’ve found far more of what I didn’t know I was looking for on the internet in the space of 5 years than I have in a lifetime of browsing books, and to far more fruitful and productive ends. The instant availability of so much information allows serendipity and sychronicity a far freer and more efficient hand. The poetry isn’t lost. The music isn’t lost. It’s all just changed pace, key and presentation, and we’d be unwise to mistake personal nostalgia and aversion to change for the real issues at hand.

    I don’t disagree with the criticisms of soulless mindless consumerism. As far as I can see, that’s what the sense of urgency relates to.

  33. Wendy says we should ask, “As I am a cell in the body of the Earth and responding to its needs, why do I have a sense of urgency and feel this drive for speed and efficiency?” And then she tells us “The answer seems pretty obvious.”

    I am slow-witted; please humor me by spelling out the obvious answer.

  34. One could say that we feel the urge to speed and efficiency because of the critical nature of the crises we face. But it appears that most people in the westernized world (judging from what is and isn’t happening) have misinterpreted what we need to be speedy and efficient about. We rush to and from work, rush at work. We hurry through meals and tasks eager to get on to the next thing too often unaware of the moments themselves. It’s not so much a slowing down physically, though with some folks it should be that as well, as it is slowing down our minds. Rushing is as much a quality of mind as it is our bodies running from place to place.

    Then there are those who believe we’re feeling the urge to speed and efficiency because the vibrations of the planet and indeed the cosmos are themselves speeding up and, because we are a part of the whole we too experience the urge. Regardless, the point is the same – to slow down our minds so we have a measure of peace within. This way we become more conscious and aware of what’s to be done rather than rushing around for the sake of rushing.

    Re: Wendy Howard’s statement that “Lamenting our societal disconnection from the natural world simply perpetuates the illusion of disconnection.” I understand what is meant here. I guess the challenge for those of us who use the written word (or spoken words, for that matter) to help create awareness is to find ways of expressing the reality that we are part of nature regardless of whether we feel it or not. Thing is, the so-called average person, in this country anyway and probably in most westernized nations, knows intellectually that we’re all part of the whole but doesn’t feel it in a sense of really getting it emotionally and spiritually. Until enough of us “get it” at that level it will be difficult to make the imperative transformation to a sustainable culture/economy/etc. And this is frustrating to those of us who know so much about the what’s happening, what is likely to happen, and the fact that time is, quite literally, running out on preventing the very worst of climate change.

    Re: the internet. Everyone is different. In my own experience, I’ve had more ah-ha moments, and synchronicities, reading, sitting on my back porch absorbing the sights and sounds, than I have sitting in front of my computer. However, I am grateful for the internet as it makes research easy and instant, a real plus to a writer. Technology only has the power we give it, for good or ill.

  35. This is a lovely piece. I recommend works by Hunnicutt on leisure. Sadly, yesterday i heard the new french president, Sarcozy, extoll the virtues of American life, in particular its 40+ hour a week at work which, he believes , is preferable to the lazy French whose work week is 35 hours. The idea is to sacrifice time for money and get more junk and feel good about it.

  36. Hi Rebecca,

    A couple of comments.

    1. Please stop saying things like “Europeans work far less than we do”. I worked at the same office job at the same level in Canada and France, and even with all my extra vacation in France, I work more hours per year here due to the longer workday.

    2. Because of the internet, my new-born daughter has regular video conversations with her grandparents on a different continent. She talks with them for hours. Long enough so that the first time she met them, she said “grandpa” and ran straight to their arms. This is the internet permitting a human relationship that would not have had the same strength otherwise. In some cases, these new products really do open up new worlds.

    3. Despite this, and despite what I think is a silght excess in romanticism in your article, I agree with you. Certainly, there is something ambiguously valuable out there that is crushed by marketing language. I think, however, that we can express it, that we can “fight” the language of commerce, without accepting that it is something too vague to capture in words. I hope I am not hearing despair in your argument.

  37. I agree that slow living is a necessiry for learning. But Mrs.Solnit’s recent effort on this matter, ie. the analog to the 4 Horsemen, etc. is a shallow piece more in keeping with yellow journalism than with real thought processes.
    Have a nice day
    Max Edge

  38. Back there on Oct. 22nd, at comment #20, Annie Morgan referred to slowness as one of the ‘perks’ of retirement.
    While I agree with her sentiment to some extent, writing as a fixed-income ‘retiree’ [I work a part-time job 2 days a week to keep the wolf on the other side of the door], I can inform you that it may not just be a perk but may also become an enforced way of life as a result of one’s economic circumstances.
    If I read the statistics on personal savings for retirement among the Boomer generation correctly, we’re about to see a huge surge in ‘slowing down’ in our culture in the very near future.

  39. So you use this piece to advertise your book on Like all technophones who use technology, you are a hypocrite.

  40. This article is very elegant from a language point of view, and a disaster from a thinking point of view. The supporting arguments for the horsemen metaphor are tepid, incomplete and deliberatly misleading.
    The human brain is capable of both logic and metaphor, each yielding its own fruit. Why do we have to rank one ahead of the other? This false binary choice has much more to do with a need for committment to a personal for idealogy than with celebrating the choices we have come to take forgranted in the 21st century. The process of projecting a personal experience/preference into a “preferred” recommendation for all of humanity is a very dangerous one – history to wit.
    On the personal side I am a big proponent of being “Surprised by Joy” in the most unexpected places (one of them is the world of technology,which does use language to describe the ‘yet to undiscovered and yet to undescribed’). There are many ironic threads in this piece (not the least of which directs us to Amazon to buy Rebecca’s books), time is a technology/physics construct – Rebecca if are you saying that you can find technology through poetry, I agree.

  41. I’m surprised that people have labeled Ms. Solnit’s piece shallow or glib. The extreme capitalist nature of our society–and increasingly, the globalized society–ensures that Security, Profitability, Efficiency and Convenience will be tenets valued above all others. This seems pretty indisputable.
    I sensed a defensiveness among some of the responses, from people who have, under the glazed glare of their computer screen, undoubtedly, sadly, begun to confuse numbed titillation for real human feeling. The defensiveness is repressed guilt: we know this stuff is killing us but we eat it, or watch it, or listen to it anyway. It tastes too good.
    And no, Kevin, it’s not hypocritical to elucidate the evils of technology and also to engage in its services. The internet is a great tool; more people will read this essay because it was posted on the internet than otherwise.
    The question becomes how to use technology while remaining balanced, human.

  42. “that to speak this slow language you must slow down, and to slow down you must have some inkling of what you will gain by doing so.”

    This sounds so simple. It is elegantly expressed. I had no inkling of what I would gain. I was highly educated, ambitious to change the world and a success to my family and peers. I was granted the gift of unemployment in midlife and found my true self in the pain and enforced slowness. I had no idea I would survive or find the world in a quiet morning walk. Although we may hope we could teach these profound lessons, my experience has been that those most in need are deaf and blind. So my life itself becomes my work of art. My daily ambiguous, unconventional, nonconformist and peculiar life that disappoints my family, puzzles my peers and delights my nieces and nephews.
    Thank you for your beautiful insight. I discovered your article and this magazine by accident. Another gift of being directionless. Permission to come aboard and go along for the ride?

  43. Amazing article, a concept I have tried to articulate to friends and family since I was a teenager but never could really articulate it..

  44. I am late to the conversation – or slow to find it. Although I initially agreed with Solnit’s sentiment, the response of some readers opened my eyes to realities overlooked by Solnit. For example, the ability to go slow is made possible by all the things that give us time – washers, dryers, cars, computers and microwave ovens. Without these inventions we would all be walking hurriedly about gathering food and washing our clothes by the river.

  45. Rebecca has written a simply gorgeous and thrilling article rich in truths which are felt by many but generally unspoken.

    I listened to an internal instinct to slow down many years ago and left a busy life as a lawyer to become a film maker largely working at home. It has been like a rebirth for me and every day I rejoice in the possibilities that life now offers.


  46. Rbecca Solnit’s article and her book “Wanderlust” brings to mind the equally revelatory and great poem by Margaret Atwood titled “Faster”.

  47. I cannot see the new comment I have just been notified of by email. It is typical pre-rational Environmentalist boilerplate. It begins: “The gigantic scale and skyrocketing growth of the human population on Earth
    appears to soon become patently unsustainable on a planet with size,
    composition, frangible ecology and finite resources of Earth…..blah, blah, blah…..”

    This is off topic, but “Environmentalism Refuted” by George Reisman needs to be required reading for all tertiary students and political activists of all persuasions. That the environmental movement can continue to exist let alone be as strong as it is, is an indictment on the rationality of our society.

  48. Dear Phil Best,

    Let me try again (since you have so persistently invited a response).

    We can certainly do more and surely do more better by doing things differently from the unsustainable ways we are doing things now.

    No generation’s leaders, however arrogant, foolhardy and avaricious, can knowingly destroy the future of its children, can they? Not even greedy, self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe would choose to precipitate a colossal ecological wreckage for so profane a purpose as increasing their wealth and enjoying endless idle pleasures, could they? Whatever these so-called economic powerbrokers choose to do, Father Profit cannot overcome Mother Nature, can it?


    Steve Salmony

  49. Ah, those four horsemen drive modern life. And it has indeed become empty and harried. Life was always harried – one just struggled after different things. I opted out of so much of this, for me and my children, and we are generally thriving because of it. But I feel that we could be better off if I just relocated us to another culture – I don’t feel that we fit here, and I don’t feel it necessary to constantly push against a culture that does not reflect the value I place in human labor and thoughtfulness. These problems persist everywhere, I am sure: but in America, we have particularly made a God of Mammon. I don’t feel a need for more things. I’d like more time and more beauty.

  50. All Steve Salmony can give me, is more boilerplate environmentalist rhetoric. The rational, scientific position on this is represented by writings like the George Reisman one I referred to, and more recently, “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley.

    The environmentalists rhetoric is founded on 1) shallow assumptions 2) pre-rational, (and now post-Christian) pagan beliefs about nature and 3) post-Cold War nihilistic rage against the victorious free market West. Notice that Greenpeace NEVER said anything about the world’s most polluted areas being the result of Communism.

    Who is going to precipitate a colossal ecological wreckage? All the historical evidence is that property rights are just as crucial to environmental outcomes as they are to human freedom. You probably aren’t going to read anything I recommend, but the last chapter of “The Rational Optimist” makes sobering reading.

    We COULD lose it all if we destroy the positive feedback loop that is capital and technological progress. Imagine if our ancestors in the 1700’s had imposed political limits to growth, because humanity was burning wood and clearing trees too fast, and the volumes of horse shit on city streets was going to be 3 feet deep by the year 2000. DOH.

  51. Dear PhilBest,

    You report,

    “We COULD lose it all if we destroy the positive feedback loop that is capital and technological progress.”

    The “positive feedback loop” to which you make reference could be out of control, and could be actual source of what is threatening the massive extinction of biodiversity, the irreversible degradation of the environment, the wanton dissipation of Earth’s resources and the ruin of our planetary home as a fit place for the children to inhabit.

    A current human population of 6.8 billion consumers, that is projected to increase by 40% to 9+ billion, could soon become unsustainable on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth.

    Unfortunately the likes of Riesman, Ridley and Lonborg have led all of us down a “primrose path” to probably confront some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage.



  52. Dear Badmommy,

    You report,

    “…… in America, we have particularly made a God of Mammon.”

    What more is there to say?



  53. Dear Steve Salmony,

    You obviously do not understand the “positive feedback loop” I am referring to. The inability to understand this is common to most “Green” believers I encounter. Their mindset appears to be akin to that of the religious faithful who oppose scientific concepts on religious grounds. Economic-technological-scientific progress is as much “science” as stem cell research.

    It is interesting that “the god of mammon” is something that both Puritans and Greens obsess about.

    Geographical-economic science has calculated a possible limit to food production under current technology, that would restrict us to a maximum of 47 billion people on earth. (Colin Clark, “Population Growth and Land Use”). That is “science”. Having a screaming fit about 9 billion people is “religion”. Furthermore, populations are actually in the process of collapsing in most parts of the world due to culture and economics and science.

    Jesse Ausubel has written plenty of scientific assessment of the REDUCING carbon intensity of the world economy. Prins et al have written a disturbing paper or two that show that Kyoto regulations have resulted in this natural trend being reversed, because of the displacement of economic activity away from the developed world to the developing world.

    Matt Ridley: “The Rational Optimist” is the ONE book that I would advise everyone to read. You can follow up his abundant references if you want to.

  54. There is another area where efficiency is our enemy.
    As an accountant I have read much on the GFC in the hope of learning some kind of Macro wisdom. Apart from the obvious “Don’t get yourself into things you cannot personally understand” there is one other. Somebody (I am ashamed that I do not remember who)pointed out that efficiency is often the enemy of stability. Redundant and duplicated systems must be stripped out in the name of efficiency but when things go wrong you are in serious trouble with no alternative to fall back on.

  55. If the “number of regulators” and the budgets of regulatory departments DID have any bearing on outcomes, the Wall Street crash would never have happened.

    There were dozens if not hundreds of commentators who warned what was happening. The small handful of staff at regulatory agencies who took any notice, got sacked or moved sideways.

    The number of people devoted to “regulation” and oversight is no guarantee of usefulness or freedom from corruption. The founding fathers of the USA would have been clear that “caveat emptor” is ultimately the only safeguard. Otherwise, you breed indifference and ignorance, with more and more people assuming that “I don’t need to do due diligence, the government will take care of me”.

  56. Wow, excellent article. Making space for the “free” things in life has an extremely high return on investment!

  57. Rebeca, You poetically describe the toll it take on our lives to use efficiency as if it were some limitless resource for economic growth. I study natural systems as a scientist, and have made considerable progress in understanding growth as a natural phenomenon. Everything good begins with growth too, as well as our most tragic societal calamities.

    It’s important to expand one’s perspective. EVERY new form of life actually begins with consuming its host and increasing its efficiency in doing so, at systematically multiplying rates. All beginnings are similar that way, like human gestation which starts with a single cell that multiplies its rate of consuming its mother’s energy and the space of the womb by a factor of a *trillion* in 9 months.

    The big difference between systems that keep doing that (till they exhaust their resources and fall apart) and those that stabilize and thrive for long periods, is that the survivors switch from that kind of growth to maturation. What causes that change in growth plans (that results in producing thriving organisms with a long future) is a change in the system’s “investment strategy”.

    During growth the organism produces surplus resources it devotes to multiplying its demands on its environment. During maturation the same sources of surplus resources are used to stabilize its demands and invest in building relationships with things around them (rather than eating them). What’s hard about it is the change in perspective. It’s always a change in focus from internal multiplication to external integration, like world culture today shows a desire to do but lacking the knowledge of how to do. We all do it in our own as we evolve our own careers, spending our youth thinking about ourselves and then maturing to learn how to think of others…

    It’s a principle that applies universally (the basis to the science I study) to self-organizing systems in general. I’ve written on it from numerous viewpoints, but if you have questions and need specific pointers please do ask.

  58. To do what we are doing now as we deny our responsibilities for massively extirpating biodiversity, recklessly dissipating natural resources and irreversibly degrading the environment while we righteously fulfill dubious duties of ravaging the world; to leave for the children the task of cleaning up the mess we are making, for returning the world to a habitat fit for life as we know it. Something seems somehow not quite right about all of it, especially the absence of balance.

  59. Beautiful piece of writing. So true.
    But I found te following ironic:-)

    “Rebecca Solnit tried to write about the uses of the unpredictable and the immeasurable in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Before that she wrote a history of walking.

    → Purchase from

    → Purchase from an independent bookstore”

  60. Time is merely a construct, an invention for our supposed convenience. One of the top core values of the U.S. according to ethnologists is “time and our control of it.” What a farce to think we control time. Learning how to “wake up and smell the coffee” or “stop and smell the roses” are small indications of slowing up or is it slowing down? A lot of folks do not learn to appreciate the gift of each day until some trauma or tragedy strikes and then, perspectives change dramatically. The time we have is a gift. What will we make of it today? Answer is not in words but in actions.

  61. Thank you for recognizing Louisiana as an example of a place where intentional choice of priorities is giving quality of living a deeper meaning for many.

  62. The gadgets are seductive and addictive, time saving and time consuming,leaving you alone-several horsemen, riding us. Pretty hard to liberate our selves from these reins.
    Like any energy, how to use them wisely is a challenge.As an educator, I discuss such articles with my family, friends and students to make them mindful. This article sent electronically and our comments are a good example of using technology wisely, in the right way. Thanks for sharing.

    Jagdish P Dave

  63. We are neither acknowledging extant science of human population nor ‘connecting the dots’ between the skyrocketing growth of the human population and the cascading evidence of climate destabilization as well as natural resource dissipation because many too many continue to deny the ecological science of human population dynamics. Something is happening on Earth that appears to be directly driven by seven billion (to become 9 billion by 2050) human beings overconsuming, overproducing and overpopulating. These activities of humankind threaten future human well being, biodiversity and environmental health. Some of us overconsume; some overproduce and some overpopulate. And many of us do all of the above. All of this distinctly human-induced activity is soon to become patently unsustainable on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth. Well established scientific knowledge, human intuition and common sense are in agreement that the colossal current scale and fully anticipated growth of unrestrained overconsumption, unbridled overproduction and unregulated overpopulation activities of the human species in which all of us engage cannot continue much longer, much less indefinitely.

    Perhaps necessary behavior changes toward sustainability are in the offing.

  64. The challenge is how to liberate ourselves wisely from self created and self sustained reins of these horses. This article and our responses es sent electronically is a good example of the wise and right use of the electronic gadgets. As an educator, I discuss such thought provoking with my family, friends, and of course with my students. Thanks for sharing.

    Jagdish P Dave

  65. this article is really beautiful and coincides with what I have been thinking about lately. We run, speed, rush and finally crush because we do not slow down to even enjoy the things we have run to purchase or even rush to own. We are just running and chasing vanity as the bible puts it and at the end we never really live. we just pass thru the world without meaning. i really want to send this article to my husband…. but he would be too busy to read it. ahahhahah busy after what? Life, lets learn to be slow and savour the moments. Thanks for this article

  66. Nice article. It reminds me that life is a “journey” and not a “destination”. The ultimate destination is death! People these days have no time for anything and rush for everything. It’s like running on a treadmill. One needs to slow down, enjoy life’s moments and experience life as it unfolds.

  67. How true
    I sold my car 2 1/2 years ago and cycle everywhere. I greet people along the way, I ask for space on shared cycle ways. I take a bit longer to get places but its a choice, a good one.


  68. Gratitude to Rebecca for articulating these beautiful, fine points – and revealing how many of our Western obsessions are taking us further away from the daily joy and beauty of belonging that we could find if we slowed down.
    I am so grateful at my present time of life for slowing down, walking more, practicing qigong, enjoying the myriad chats and momentary meetings in the day if I slow down and open myself.

  69. some how, everywhere & in every field, we find ” aram haram hai” and that is true even for leisure!

  70. I trust some of us will use our time more wisely after this discussion. The time I save doing my business online and by phone does allow me to walk, and socialise in person. I don’t doubt this is a global Renaissance, but don’t dare predict the outcome.

  71. Not finding time to discuss the real issue…….

    What power (it appears to extend into the highest echelons of science, all the way to the American Academy of Science and The Royal Society) is so unique and seemingly omnipotent that we are stopped at every turn from discussing extant science regarding the human population? Is there not “cultural bias in science” that ultimately determines the boundaries of our thought, analysis and discourse when human beings are the subject of investigation? Perhaps St. Augustine was correct after all when noting, “Men go forth to wonder about the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the oceans, the endless courses of the stars: and yet Men pass by themselves without wondering.”

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