Slow Down

Finding your natural rhythm in a speed-crazed world

| March-April 1997

“Simplicity” has become the rallying cry for millions of Americans, as we try—often without much success—to untangle the jumble of our lives. We cut back our expenses, throw out useless possessions, struggle to establish priorities. Yet nothing will truly change for us until we address a deeper problem: our addiction to speed.

Speed is such an integral part of contemporary society it’s easy to lose sight of just how much power it has over us. Indeed, slowing down may be the most effective way to transform your life—and truly enjoy the richness of everything from sex to supper. But that’s not the only reason to put on the brakes. Revving up the planet poses a real threat to the environment and the diversity of the human community. What the world needs now, as the following articles demonstrate, is a conscientious slowdown.

In this section, we take an in-depth look at the effects of our speeding lives and how we might slow down. In “The Speed Trap,” Utne Reader editor-at-large Jay Walljasper notes that speed has brought major improvements to our world. But in taking advantage of its possibilities, we have become blind to its drawbacks. A full-throttle life seems to yield little satisfaction other than the sensation of speed itself. Jay shows how we can improve the quality of life and defend the environment by slowing down.

Slowing down can be difficult, as senior editor Jon Spayde discovers as he tries to live his life at half-speed. Dick Dahl writes about physician Larry Dossey’s use of biofeedback to combat “time sickness”—stress related illnesses, ranging from a distinct pathology of heart disease to nervous exhaustion.

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