Günther Dellbrügger

The moment when the Slow movement was born was a moment of resistance, a demonstration initiated by Carlo Petrini against the opening of a fast-food restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986. The Slow Food movement was clearly in the air. It inspired Slow movements in many other fields such as “Slow Money”, “Slow Gardening” or “Slow Parenting”.

The “Slow” slogan gives form to a form of life in which quality becomes the focus. The question arises whether we can also recognise and value “less, smaller, gradual” as qualities. The journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Salopek decided to walk the world. He started the “To walk the World” project in 2013 in Ethiopia, in the heart of Africa, at the site at which the oldest human skeletons have been found. It will take him through four continents and is projected to end in 2020, 34,000 kilometres later, at the southern tip of South America. Salopek on his project: “By walking I am forced to slow down. Speed makes the world dull and flat. On foot – there is clarity.”

The courage to take time

In 2014, a big book was published in the USA which sets out the history and intentions of the “Slow Church” movement. The principle of encouraging thoughtful reflection by pausing and the intent to implement human values in all fields of life are here applied to the Christian religion and the life of the faithful.

The suffering caused by stress, burnout and the pressure to consume made the founders of this movement and their supporters look for better forms of life. The life of the individual was to be made more worth living and thereby also the life of the community – in order ultimately also to lead the life of society as a whole in a more meaningful direction.

Starting from the principle of the “active pause”, and using the example of the Jewish celebration of the Sabbath, Christopher Smith and John Pattison have conceived in Slow Church the foundations of a new ethics in which quality takes precedence over quality. It is their hope that such a change in behaviour will lead to the development of social organisms in which Christ can gradually come to life as in a body. Communities thus turn into the “embodiment of Christ”.

In the field of ecology this includes respect for Creation, indeed, ultimately the “restoration of everything” instead of exploitation and destruction of the world. The same approach leads to the creation of a fair economy which sees the existing wealth of the goods of the earth not as our personal possessions but as a divine gift which should be shared among human beings.

Stop for meaning

The many movements under the “Slow” banner are part of global civil society which is holding up a big “Stop” sign: a clear rejection of the market economy, proclaimed not to have any alternative, and its devastating consequences for human beings and the world. The new element is revealed in a longing for a renewed sense of meaning and the ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity, not just with all people but with Creation as a whole.

Its realisation is not, of course, an “either-or” situation, pitting opposites such as slow-fast, quiet-loud and active-passive against one another. A “both-and” expands our ability to judge in which situation which qualities in our actions will benefit the whole the most. This also frees our actions from one-sided judgements.

Identity in the moment

Our power of judgement grows out of a true connection with and mindfulness of the human being and their work, a connection with and mindfulness of culture and nature. Perhaps a new cipher is beginning to appear for a desirable attitude to life which might be described as “identity in the moment”.

We human beings are presented with many opportunities; but turning them into abilities requires that we cultivate them. Do I keep up my interest in the world? What enables me to be attentive to and mindful of my environment? The illiterates of the future will not be the people who have not mastered the alphabet but those who cannot establish and maintain any living connection between themselves and the world. This is where the crucial skills lie which can unlock the gates of life for us. A key source of strength in this respect appears to be the active pause:

• Pausing in our observation, reviewing the process of apprehension a further time and then perhaps completing and rounding it off until I have the feeling that I have connected well with my observation, until what I observe speaks to me.

• Pausing in making judgements and seeking additional, new aspects, temporarily adopting the  position of the other in a “role reversal”, looking from their perspective until I reach a more considered judgement.

• In self-reflection renewing the connection with myself, not letting the “silken thread” to my own higher aspect break. Pausing as a “mini meditation” can make me aware of the vertical aspect again, strengthen my connection with myself.

Don’t run, walk slowly:
You just have to walk towards yourself!
Walk slowly, don’t run,
For the child of your I,
Eternally new-born,
Cannot follow you!

– Juan Ramón Jiménez –

About the author: Dr. Günther Dellbrügger is a retired priest of the Christian Community and an author.