On the Variability of Time


There is a secret bond between slowness and memory,
between speed and forgetting.

A man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him.
Automatically, he slows down.
Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace,
as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory;
the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.

From Milan Kundera’s SLOWNESS

I’ve forgotten almost everything I’ve read in Milan Kundera’s novels, except the notion above about slowness. (Even then I remembered it inaccurately; I always thought the relation was between slowness and thought, rather than slowness and memory.)

I’m sure there are countless thought experiments and studies out there (literary, neurological, philosophical, psychological) that examine the relationships between our experience of time and our quality of life. The majority converge on the following conclusion: a life frantically and frenetically lived is hardly a life at all. These days, what it takes to escape time is to escape place (very often, what we truly mean when we say we want to “get away” is that we want to slow things down; time never passes at the same pace everywhere; the city and the country inhabit not just different time zones but different time velocities.)

Right now, I just. want. to. slow. things. down.

So that I can watch the steam curl above a cup of coffee, hear the spaces between heartbeats, taste the shift of dark chocolate from sweet to bitter, smell the rain before it falls, and feel the texture of my life as it slips merrily from one moment to another.

Just little things really. The kinds of things that you can only savor with the slow kind of time.

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