• John Diamond-Nigh


Updated: Apr 5, 2020

The world has #slowed.

How many friends have observed that, subtracting the perils of the #virus itself, the whirlpool skirts of #anxiety, and the toll confinement takes on kids, we like a world that’s slower, less #carnivalesque. Less manic. #Asheville looks like a habitable city again, stripped of its Mardi Gras adrenaline and nail-gun developer delirium; able, one could even imagine, to welcome back all those it has driven out.

The #gulf between #nobility and #ignobility in the past couple of months has been staggering; belonging to the former, some world leaders, and here at home governors and mayors; multitudes of strangers and friends, and most of all medical and service professionals. Will the lessons of this crisis be thought about and embroidered into our lives, or seen as inimical to faith and ‘prosperity’ and denied as so many critical truths have been? That said, I believe we will #slow down.

But slow was already here, most notably in the Italian Slow Food Movement and spreading from there to a rainbow of slows–slow art, slow sex, slow shopping, slow justice, slow health. Yoga. Walking. Cycling. Enjoying the sanctum of home for itself, not just as a hub of scooting, diversionary spokes.

Think of slow as a sort of AA for a broadly and deeply #addiction-bound culture–too addicted, as a friend put it, to see its own #apocalypse. May, in fact, we start to see?

The great Russian critic #Bakhtin hypothesized the carnivalesque many decades ago; in a parallel vein, the American writer Christopher #Lasch foresaw #narcissism approaching like a storm of locusts, eating democracy bare. What if we put ourselves in a slower, more selfless ecology than that of our own desires and self-believed grandeurs? Marriage, indeed all careful communion, slows you down. You have to talk. Listen. Downshift.

Not that slow precludes #fast. The poet Shelley, in “To a Skylark,” paints the elations of #speed: higher still and higher from the earth thou springest like a cloud of fire/the blue deep thou wingest and singing still dost soar. A little more problematically, the #Futurist writer #Marinetti paints speed not just as the modern archetype par excellence, but as a brutal, mechanical purgation. The overpowered car, the jet fighter. The usual #masculine arsenal.

Years ago Lynne and I traveled by bus to a #monastery ten miles or so outside of #Florence. I’ve said this before, I love monasteries, their shapes, their methods, their stony, elliptical #hospitality. Talk about slow. #Recurrence. #Kinship. #Ritual. And the best damn bread in the world. Talk about silence that haunts you down to the basements of your being. During the #plague of 1522, the great artist #Pontormo sought refuge here. As thanks, he painted four frescoes, one at each corner of the cloister. As centuries passed, they decomposed, and their magnificent remains can be seen assortedly propped against the walls of an unheated storeroom. Someday, I have no doubt, they’ll be restored and exhibited in a museum where passersby will devote the cursory #nine seconds an artwork gets in museums. Including the selfie. Here, in this cold, stony room, we sat transfixed for an hour, warmed by the orange liqueur the monks produce.

#Slow art. A stunning new #museum has just opened outside #Washington DC, devoted to the principles of slow art. No selfies allowed (hurrah!), only so many people let in each hour. No guides. Art as other than cocktail playground, as social or didactic diversion. Rather, art as a grown-up, deeply intense, as-long-as-it-takes #encounter.

As slow.

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