It’s been a while since my last post – but I have quite a few posts lined up, so expect more immaterialist action in the approaching weeks!
In today’s post I will reflect on the term slow living, as I am currently in the process of writing about slowing down in my upcoming book on anti-trendy living.
Slowing down probably sounds appealing to most hard-working, busy, diligent people in post-industrial societies. Due hereto silent retreats, off-grid resorts, slow food restaurants, and traditional crafts workshops seem to be popping up everywhere in order to meet the rising need of nourishing, luxury, hands-on slow experiences.
However, letting slowness into one’s daily life is slightly harder than spending an evening, an afternoon, a couple of days or a week on slowing down one’s senses and mind. Letting slowness into one’s everyday life means allowing for moments of non-activity or even boredom to enter, and it is often linked to the celebration of slow everyday activities; like making one’s bed, cooking, washing the dishes etc. Not all slow activities are as instantly nourishing (spiritually or tactilely) as engaging in group meditations or learning traditional embroidery techniques.
Slow living is not necessarily Instagram-material. It is the antidote to a “life in the fast lane”.
Slowness is often intertwined with simple living. Slowing down hence encompasses simplifying things in order get out of the “hamster wheel” of a typical stressful city life, in which a satisfying work-life balance seems next to impossible. Perhaps the act of simplifying involves downscaling as well; limiting expenses and consumption can be the key to regaining control of one’s time, since it tends to allow for less work and more spare time.
In my opinion, simple living is a thought-provoking term though: the word simple can be synonymous to dreary adjectives like down-to-earth and ordinary, and even to naïve and gullible, which are typically not meant as flattering characteristics. Hence, living simply could indicate that one lives an average, ordinary life without any excitement – or even that one is unadventurous or a stay-at-home kind of person that doesn’t engage in much. The passion that de Beauvoir so eloquently links to the authentic life seems absent.
Terms connoting the wrong associations is a common problem in relation to sustainable living-tendencies like simple living, slow living or downscaling. Living a mundane, simple, routine-based life just doesn’t sound very sexy. Who wants to be the unadventurous person that never goes anywhere and finds pleasure in simple, slow activities like washing the dishes or making the bed?
The communication on sustainable living and sustainable products could generally benefit from being “jazzed up” a little. Simple, slow, sustainable living must connote another range of adjectives in order to have more clout. We need more stories and examples of simple, sustainable living connoting balance, freedom to do whatever one is passionate about, non-complicated human relations, communal engagement, humbleness, nurturing nature experiences, tactile nourishment, activism, and playfulness — rather than stories on women choosing stay-at-home parenting, families detaching from society and prohibiting any kind of “screen-based” activities, or the glorification of leavened bread.
The majority of the stories currently attached to simple living are too fictitious or inauthentic to be resilient. They might seem appealing, when browsing through them on Instagram, whilst eating a quick lunch in between a busy day’s endless meetings, but they are like a broken record; repeating the same unstimulating scenarios over and over again.
Sustainable, simple living should be synonymous with resilience. There is nothing healthy or resilient about the occasional “sugar-rush” in the shape of consumer-ventures or luxury holidays (needed to survive one’s stressful, busy daily life). I would even go as far as to rename the sustainable way of life known as slow living or simple living resilient living.
The majority of the connotations currently linked to simple living are too dreary and too monotonous to be resilient. As previously mentioned (in relation to skipping the term consumption in favour of usage); when seeking to change the status quo linked to an unfortunate pattern (personal or societal) or to limiting norms, or perhaps in relation to a well-meant and timely new tendency that doesn’t seem to catch the crowds, the words we make use of are of great importance. Resilience connotes robustness, flexibility, adaptability and strength, which are much more convincing and suggestive terms than those linked to simple living.
Being resilient involves finding the golden mean in the Aristotelian sense of the term between too much and too little. Living simply and resiliently does not mean living in asceticism, as does it of course not involve decadence.
Resilient living involves repetition, or rather; it involves finding pleasure in repetition. However, nourishing repetitions are not draining and wearisome. Resilient living is not an ode to dishwashing! Resilient repetitions are e.g. linked to the usage of aesthetically nourishing objects, to the celebration of the rhythms of nature, to steadily refining a skill, to the pleasure of slow creation (and the appreciation of slowly created objects), to creating rituals with friends and family, and to finding a stimulating work-life balance.