Christian McEwen

writer/educator/workshop leader; author of World Enough & Time, now in its sixth printing


For all our protestations about our crazy-busyness, most of us are not so comfortable with slowing down. The first boat built by Europeans on American soil was called Onrust or Restless, and that edgy restlessness is still a part of us, both a blessing and a curse. Even now, slow is often used as a synonym for “stupid” or “old-fashioned,” “boring,” “dumb,” whereas fastis taken to mean “smarter,” “sharper,” “better on all counts.” In recent years, that humblest of written links, the tiny hyphen, has vanished from some 16,000 words. “Fig-leaf” is now “figleaf,” “pigeon-hole” is “pigeonhole,” and “leap-frog,” has catapulted into “leapfrog.” The reason, says Angus Stevenson, who edited the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is that we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key.

It is as if any pause, however modest, had the power to trigger us, thrusting us forward into anger and impatience, the desk equivalent of road rage. But slowing down need not be so excruciating. Our sense of time is among the most malleable of all the functions of the brain. The “velocity” involved in paying the bills is very different from the “velocity” of love-making, as most of us understand extremely well. The things we value most, we almost always try to do with some nimbus of timelessness around them: the opportunity to get lost and found again, to dissolve into what can feel like eternity. Such timelessness can be profoundly inspiring, even on an ordinary weekend.

from World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down (Bauhan Publishing)