By Chere Di Boscio
Do you plan to skim this article and glance and the pictures, or actually read it and learn something? Carl Honore would much prefer that you choose the latter option, not just because this piece is, after all, about him, but because he fears the fast pace of modern life is damaging how we experience the world.
After working with street children in Brazil, he hustled around the world, working as a journalist for the Economist, Observer, and National Post, to name but a few publications. But after a very personal revelation, he realised he was living his life on ‘fast forward’ and missing out on truly enjoying important moments that he’d never know again.
His first book, In Praise of Slow, examines why we feel so compelled to rush through life, and why increasing numbers of people feel the need to put on the brakes. So important was the impact of this book, the Financial Times said it was “to the Slow Movement what Das Kapital is to communism.” His second book, Under Pressure was praised by Time as being the “gospel of the Slow Parenting movement.” He has inspired and been inspired by several other ‘slow’ movements, including Barrett Wissman, father of ‘Slow Entertainment’ and Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Movement.
Currently, Carl gives talks on living life more languidly, hosts a radio show and continues to write. Here, amongst other things, he talks about the impact cheese, cherry trees and children’s stories have made on his life.
What sparked the ‘slow’ movement for you?
It was personal. My life had become an endless race against the clock. I was always in a hurry, scrambling to save a minute here, a few seconds there. My wake-up call came when I found myself toying with the idea of buying a collection of one-minute bedtime stories – Snow White in 60 seconds! – to read to my son. Suddenly it hit me: my rushaholism has got so out of hand that I’m even willing to speed up those precious moments with my children at the end of the day. There has to be a better way, I thought, because living in fast forward is not really living at all. That’s why I began investigating the possibility of slowing down.
What does the ‘slow’ movement mean, really?
Slow does NOT mean doing everything at a snail’s pace. The Slow philosophy is about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. Engaging deeply with whatever we’re doing and whomever we’re with. Being in the moment. Slow is about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.
What is the earliest memory you have of being in nature?
I remember climbing the cherry tree in our backyard in Vancouver. I recall the thrill of clambering higher and higher, the amazing patterns the light made filtering through the branches, the heady smell of the blossom. I especially remember how deliciously plump and sweet the cherries were!
Has the natural world inspired your work, in any way?
Definitely. I grew up in Canada, where the natural world is very present, and much of my childhood was spent in the outdoors. The natural world is all about slowness: Nature never rushes. So being in the natural world is a wonderful way to slow down; it can inoculate us against the virus of hurry. A big aim of the Slow Movement is to reconnect people with natural rhythms.
What’s the most positive thing you do for the environment in your daily life?
I walk, run or rollerblade everywhere.
What’s your greatest eco ‘sin’?
That’s easy: flying.
What would be your eco-friendly dream travel destination?
What are you proudest of so far in your career?
Working with street children in Brazil. Winning an award from the Overseas Press Club of America for a series I wrote on Europe. Seeing my books on bestseller lists around the world and translated into more than 30 languages. Being shortlisted for the top literary prize for non-fiction in Canada. Putting the Slow Movement on the map.
But maybe above all that people write to me almost daily to say my work on Slow has transformed their lives.
Who are your favourite ‘slow’ food, home or fashion creators?
- I’m a big fan of the chef and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi.
- I love my local cheesemonger, Hamish Johnston, in Battersea.
- Chris Smith makes my favourite chilli sauce in small batches at home
1. Melin Tregwynt, a woolen mill in Wales, make wonderful throws and blankets and even iPhone cases.
- My tailor, Timothy Everest.
- Love Justin Deakin’s handmade English leather shoes
- Sven Segal of Po-Zu makes amazing eco-shoes.
Which high profile person trying to make a difference do you most admire, and why?
This varies from day to day. Today, the nod goes to Amy Schumer for tackling misogyny with gusto and humour.
When and where are you happiest?
Enjoying a long, leisurely dinner with my family. Or playing ball hockey.
For which cause would you die, if any?
Now that I have children I feel less gung ho about dying for any cause. But I suppose if I had to pick one it would be freedom of thought.
Which environmental issues are most important to you?
How to stop pumping so much of the wrong stuff into the atmosphere.
What’s the main thing you think we all need to do to ensure a better future?
Do less, hurry less, consume less. Think more, love more, create more.