Last year, I wrote my culminating junior year research paper on The Slow Movement. Although it sounds weird, the slow movement came about in an effort to fight our shortcut-taking, stressed society. I often feel as though we as people, and as a society, are always trying to take on more and work faster, resulting in a constant, inhuman hurry from one thing to the next. In a lot of ways and facets of our lives, I think we’ve become slaves to efficiency, believing faster is better, rather than realizing better often comes from slower. As the actress, Lily Tomlin addresses the issue, “The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” So the idea of slowness is to avoid being swept away into the race, unable to stop and rest. It’s the idea that we need to re-balance our lives and priorities between work, hobbies, and friends.
Yet, even after I researched and interviewed a leader of the movement, ultimately making small mindful alterations to my day to counteract “fast,” I often feel the balance shifting. Recently, I think back on the days before leaving for this trip. They were the last academic days of my high school career, and I was becoming possessed by all my assignments and tests. The day before I was scheduled to leave, my friends and I had made plans to go out for dinner one last time; however, I ended up cancelling to stay home and study for a test the next day. Now as I look back, I not only regret taking that extra two hours of studying, but more importantly realize how strong the urge to become machine-like is in my world. It’s not as if “slow” is refusing to do things efficiency, or not doing work at all. It’s simply understanding that not everything should be done quickly, and that life and work are better when you’re not in a constant sprint. In fact, I love this cute video from the philosopher, Alan Watt, because I think it captures how a fast lifestyle is imprinted on us from a young age.
But it is in the past week of climbing with Zach that prompted me to write this post. In fact, as I read over some of my old notes for my paper, my epigraph seems absolutely fitting for how I feel: “People are born and married, and live and die, in the midst of an uproar so frantic that you would think they would go mad of it.” -William Dean Howells
Wednesday, Zach and I climbed to the top of Devil’s Tower via the classic Durrance route. However, because it’s a classic we quickly found ourselves stuck behind another party, forcing us to wait.
We were both irritated and dehydrated, wishing to simply pass them, rip to the top, and get down. But, once Zach finally was able to start leading the next pitch, a skinny, old man, leading the party behind us, came over and introduced himself as Frank.
We chatted for a while as I belayed Zach, and I knew he was a character when someone in his party asked him how he was doing, and he gleefully yelled back, “64 years, 5 months, and 3 days have brought my life right here, and I couldn’t be happier!” He was full of funny banter about the tower and climbing, and when I asked him how many times he’d been to the top, he smiled and insisted, “Not enough!”. It was then that I realized how “fast” had infiltrated even climbing for me. Here I was on an American climbing classic, during a beautiful day in Wyoming, with the sun shining, blue skies, and no where else to be, and yet I was still frustrated with our slow pace while Frank was loving every moment of it.
By the time I got climbing and I met back up with Zach, he informed me that Frank, was Frank Sanders the most legendary climber when it comes to Devil’s Tower. Frank has climbed the tower literally thousands of times– even including a year where he climbed it 365 times in 365 days. It seems to me that if there’s anything Frank loves in life it’s that tower and enjoying climbing it. Even though he’d gone up that route uncountable times, what he said to me as Zach climbed ahead again, stuck: “The speed records already been set, I’m just here to enjoy the day.”
So although I might find myself getting caught up in the vicious cycle of efficiency time and time again, I think it’s important to recognize and have reminders to slow down. Even with that slip up, this trip has made me recognize how my change in lifestyle has eliminated the stresses that worked there way into my regular day. From driving in a rush to school, to driving in the slow lane now, or forgetting to eat because of work, to making meals with my brothers: life’s different now, it’s slower, but it’s definitely better.