(I have experimented with several different names for Mindfulosophy. One of them is Slow thought. That is the termed used in this FAQ. Basically they are the same thing.)
Why slow thought? Is slower better than faster? And isn’t this really a currently trendy way of really saying nothing?
Whoa. Take it easy. That´s three questions. Which one do we start with?
Okay, well, the second one.
No, slower is not “better” than faster. But if you want to question currently popular ideas, you might question the much more popular “truth” faster = better. You tell me, is faster better than slower?
That is certainly how it is viewed in our world. In the West, at least.
But it is better?
Well, opinions differ, surely.
The question is not easy. It is perhaps not even a good question. “Good” in the sense of precise, sharp. The better questions we ask, the better, more valuable answers we can find. And in order to find “good” questions, we need to slow down.
Okay, so slower is better when it comes to finding good questions?
It can be.
I can go along with that.
Let me ask the questions for a while. What are we talking about here?
(Sigh) Slow thought. Remember…?
Yes, that´s obvious. Go a step beyond that, a bit deeper.
You could look at the words. Be analytical.
Okay, we are talking about thoughts. Plus being slow.
Yes, we are talking about two things. We have a noun and an adjective. A “thing” and a “quality”. Do you agree with that?
I guess so.
You shouldn’t. Is being slow a quality?
I would say yes and no. When we speak about high or low quality we more or less mean good and bad. We are talking about values, about better or worse. As you did in your initial question (“Is slow better than fast?”)
Yes, but a quality can be neutral also. It need not be good or bad, just what is it: slow, instead of fast.
But that is not how we usually use these words. If you observe our language “slow” is often a synonym for bad, “fast” for good.
Okay, can you give me an example of that?
They are easy to find, but I can help you.
Compare how often we hear the phrase “Don´t be so slow” with “Don´t be so fast”. Compare the praise “he is a fast thinker” with “he is a slow thinker”. The latter would hardly be praise, but reservation or criticism.
Have you looked in a thesaurus for synonyms for “slow”?
You asked for it. Here are some: Apathetic, delaying, disinclined, drowsy, idle, inactive, indolent, inert, laggard, leisurely, lethargic, loitering, negligent, phlegmatic, ponderous, postponing, procrastinating, reluctant, slack, sleepy, slothful, sluggish, stagnant, tardy, torpid…
Wait, there´s more! Backward, dense, dim, dimwitted, dull, dumb, dunce, imbecile, moronic, obtuse, simple, stupid, thick, unresponsive…
Now let´s look at “fast”.
Speedy, active, agile, brisk, dashing, expeditious, flashing, flying, nimble, presto, pronto, quick, rapid, ready, snappy, swift, winged…
Positive words indeed.
Also, if you shop around for a new car or computer the salesman would hardly say “Let me show you this brand new product. It is real slow!”. Unless he was a joker.
Yes, but we are talking about thoughts here, not cars or computers.
Not really. You asked for examples, and I was giving you examples of how “fast” generally means “good” in our culture, and “slow” “bad”. Why did I do that?
(sigh) To point out that fast = good and slow = bad in our culture…?
Rather to point out that we don´t generally see “slow” as something neutral but that we put a lot of valuation in this word. Negative valuation, almost all the time. Except for a minority, a small group of people who are into Slow food, etc.
Yes, I know about that movement. It´s not only about food, though. There’s also Slow cities, Slow parenting, Slow architecture…
Why not Slow fast?
That wasn’t meant as a joke. As I said earlier slow is and is not a quality. Is it also a quantity. Now, quality and quantity are often put against each other as opposites or at least two different things. Are they?
Are you asking me?
Yes. I would like to involve you in a dialogue with more fluid roles, instead of you always asking and me always answering (“Boring” as Sherlock would say).
Okay, are quantity and quality opposites? Let´s see. Quantity is about numbers, sizes, amounts. Let me look it up in Encyclopedia Britannica, to be sure.
If you want to be so learned, fine.
Why not? I am sure you consulted a book to get your list of synonyms.
BRITANNICA: Quan·ti·ty. Latin: quantitas. How much, how large…. The aspect in which a thing is measurable in terms of greater, less, or equal or of increasing or decreasing magnitude.
Anything there about good or bad, beautiful or ugly, serious or funny…?
No, nothing about that in EB. Even though… fat people are often funnier than slim people.
Did you notice what you just did there?
No….? Insulted a minority, probably.
I went from big to funny.
In other words…
From quantity to… quality?
Bingo. From what can be measured (body mass or weight in this case) to what cannot (being funny). At least not measured in the same way. All this is relevant for our discussion about slow vs. fast.
Hm, I see this is turning into a discussion or even a dialogue. From being a mere FAQ.
Something else is happening as well here.
What? Let me see…
Something to do with speed, tempo.
We are slowing down…
Yes, at least you are. You started out with great speed and not much reflection. Now we have both the same measured tempo. Also, our tempi are more similar now. It´s like two musicians tuning their instruments to the same A (=440).
I see. But since I have slowed down and we are more in the same tempo maybe we could take this from the top?
Okay. So, why slow thought? And, is slower better than faster? I could rephrase the first question, or actually both my questions into: Why is slower thinking better than faster? And perhaps more importantly, HOW is slower thinking better – or different – from fast thinking?
Did you notice something there?
Well, I feel like I am standing on the ground. There is more substance and weight to my words, for some reason.
What reason could that be?
Maybe that I slowed down.
In one sense. In another sense you speeded up. Speeded up your understanding of what you were saying, what your words meant more exactly. The process of noticing what is going on — mental awareness if you will — is often very slow with us.
Slow in which sense?
Let me see. There is an English word, similar to “slow” that is very much to the point here. Slov·en·ly. About that adjective EB writes: “Untidy, especially in personal appearance” and “lazily slipshod, in thought”. So my answer is, slow in the sense of slovenly. You went from being a bit careless in thought to more careful.
Let me congratulate myself for that. But let´s get back to my question.
Thanks. For what…?
That you want to get back to the question.
Er… why are congratulating me for that? Is that something to compliment?
In Slow thought it is. Keeping to the subject is an important talent. Not the least because it presupposes KNOWING and REMEMBERING what the subject is. Also being able to HOLD on to it, instead of tossing it up in the air and see where the winds blow it.
I see. Now, will you please answer my question.
As you realize now, your questions are not one-dimensional, and not that easy to answer in a straightforward manner. But they are getting better. “Why is slower thinking better than faster?” and “HOW is slower thinking better – or different – from fast thinking?” are quite good questions. Do you have time? I ask because there are no short answers.
Yes, I have time.
I you have time, I have tempo. Actually tempo means time, in Italian.
We are revolving like planets and moons around the question (Sun) of
One important thing to realize is that there are almost no “easy” answers. If you take it slow and go the question with reflection you will see that it leads to other, new questions. “Why is slower thinking better than faster?” leads to several new questions. If you look really carefully at that seemingly innocent, rather journalistic question, you will see that it turns into something quite different, even weird.
Let´s do it!
Let´s fall in love — with wisdom. Look at the question. “Why is slower thinking better then faster?” We have already a hint that the words “slow” and “slower” are both qualities and quantities. These are not precise, clear-cut words. There´s quite a lot of ambiguity about them.
Ambiguity can be expressed with a question-mark: ? So let’s replace the word “slower”, thus:
“Why is ? thinking better than faster?”
But the antonym to “slow”, “fast” carries the same ambiguity.
Thus: “Why is ? thinking better then ??”
I like the double question mark at the end.
And what exactly do we mean by “better”? Not clear, open to debate.
“Why is ? thinking ? then ? ?”
And what about thinking? Is that a clear, precise term that we
understand, or even agree on the definition of?
Then: “Why is ? ? ? then ? ?”
Further, what do we mean by “is”? Is that crystal clear?
Then: “Why ? ? ? ? then ? ?”
I see where you are heading.
If you wanted to you could transform the whole sentence to a
bunch of questions marks.
No need for that. A seemingly clear question turns out to be a hornets nest, a gathering of wolves, a collection of snakes. I start to understand why there cannot be a quick and easy answer.
What…? What is an “answer”?
Okay, don´t go there, please! I think I get the point.
There are many points. One of them is that while we are fast, we will miss these not so obvious question marks.
Fast, in which sense?
When I rattled off the synonyms for “fast” earlier I left out some negative words. Not many, but two very important synonyms are “hasty” and “hurried”. While you are hasty and hurried you will miss the point.
One of the points.
Thank you. After having deconstructed your question we can actually
put it back together again. Perhaps even answer it. Thus:
QUESTION: Why is slower thinking better then faster?
ANSWER: Because [a classic way to start an answer] by thinking slower [wait for it] I can see and realize [getting hot…] that my question [ahem, do I actually have to remember my question?] is like cheese, full of holes.
Haha. Okay… In short, slower thinking makes me realize, CAN make me
… can make me realize that my question was no good to begin with!
Well, what a bummer!
Not at all! This is progress. It´s no fun to stand in quicksand, but
believing that you stand on terra firma and then realizing that it’s actually quicksand IS progress. Not flattering perhaps, but definitely moving forward.
Into the Woods. Into what IS, not just what we slovenly think is.
Okay. One thing I realize is that being slow really takes time. (Which shouldn’t be a surprise really.) What was a quick, snappy process of question and answer — a FAQ — has turned into a quite time-consuming process of reflection.
And there we are. However, further reflection about time usage might show you how much more time you invest in other things, things that might not be progressive at all. So the time you “lose” here is really nothing compared to…
How can you say that? I enjoy killing time… Oops.
Thanks for you saying that. Using time to kill time is a strange, but in our world very normal thing to do. If you think about it you might see that the logic of that is like…
It’s like working and toiling week in, week out, getting your monthly pay, and when the paycheck finally comes, using the fresh bills as — toilet paper. You save, you waste. You water and cultivate, then you kill.
Well, that´s harsh. But I guess it is true. It´s just that I am not used
to think so slowly, to have a conversation move like a… tortoise.
You remember who won the race, against the swift hare?
Say no more.
I won´t. Until next time, think slow.