The best take-away line from a WGBH Forum Network lecture given by Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slow, actually comes via an audience member, a mother recalling her son’s words upon finally, after prolonged struggling, mastering a skill in his childhood: “I am a slow genius!” The phrase stuck with her through 26 years to share in the audience response section of Honore’s presentation celebrating mindful slowness as an antidote to the too-hurried pace of modern Western life.
It stuck with me, too. As a devotee of efficiency, a disciple of Getting Things Done, an obsessive-compulsive about being continuously productive, I too often find myself anxiously rushing from one activity to the next or suffering from self-induced ADD from excessive multi-tasking, for fear I’m not moving fast enough to not fall behind, much less get ahead. But there’s another part of me that wonders what this busyness is all about. That part of me knows that I’ve always been a tortoise, not a hare. That part advocates quality over quantity. That part understands that whatever genius I might have is revealed most fully when I am mindfully slow, not fretfully fast. That part agrees with Lao Tzu when he says in the Tao Te Ching:
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.