Time was, no one in Italy could have been accused of rushing madly through life. Meal time with family was sacred, as was the post-prandial "riposo".
A walk in the piazza, a caffe break, an apertivo at the end of the day were moments to kick back and enjoy the day. Adoption of new technology lagged behind the rest of the industrialized world, so no one was checking email or surfing the Internet.
Well, that's all changed and now Italians have to actually think about taking it slow. Feb. 19 has become the "Giornata della Lentezza", or Day of Slowness, when people are reminded that efficiency and productivity aren't everything. To celebrate the day, there was a "slow marathon" in Rome and a cloud-watching event. The media spotlighted the 55 "Cittaslow" or "Slow Cities" that are part of the Slow Food movement (also originating in Italy). And now there is even a movement promoting slowness.
Milan Kundera wrote about the dehumanizing, pleasure-depriving fact of going fast in his 1993 book Slowness.
Speed is definitely associated with our modern, Internet-time, multi-tasking (and reptitive motion injury as my chiropractor reminded me today while cracking my computerized neck) lives. An Internet search under "slowness" brings up questions and answers about slow computers. Speed is a user benefit many computer industry vendors identify when selling. We live in such a pumped-up era, that is still undergoing so much change as it hurtles into the future, that implicit in its culture is the low value placed on remembering how life was before. Kundera says slowness is associated with memory, speed with forgetting.
And where do relationships come in? If speed is a value, does depth matter? Women have always enjoyed spending time, lots of time, chatting and relishing the rapport we feel with women friends. I'm always amazed when I see the clock on the phone recording the amount of time I've just spent talking with a friend. Where o where did the time GO?
Men marvel, or perhaps more aptly, scoff, at this trait. But it is something that depends on slow and is part of the female nature. Sadly, it is hard to find female friends who aren't too busy to indulge in a good natter these days.
One local place I go, where people end up positively euphoric over the effect of lingering over good food and hours of conversation is The Busy Corner. It is the antithesis of speed and efficiency. And it fulfills a need for the solace of slow.