Someone who loves me has gadgeted my life, moving me from a cell phone to a Blackberry to an iPhone and now to iPad augmentation. I’ve come to play willingly enough, reading and blogging and Facebooking and even tweeting now and then, as both my writing and church worlds urge the Must of social media.
The bright and shiny is addictively easy; I can too quickly pick up the gadget instead of the pen. It takes more discipline now to turn to my morning pages before checking the morning mail or nytimes.com. But, as poet William Stafford made clear in a lifetime of early rising to commune with whatever came, attending to what is bubbling in my own pots is a listening no one else can do. The first catch of the morning is unlike any other, and not available elsewhen.
This morning, I was curmudgeoning about not being as quick on the draw as some; when I try to move quickly, I am rarely satisfied with what I have to say or what I accomplish. And there are So Many Words rushing into every void, now. It wasn’t so long ago that words took effort to find; now it takes effort to shut them off.
There’s slow food, I thought. Why not slow words? Accept that I’m not going to be fast, or ubiquitous; I won’t have the first word, or the last word.
I can reach a little deeper for meaning. I can recommit to my own words first, such as they are. I can struggle to accept and use this one gift, with a little more dedication. To be open, as Stafford says; to receive what comes, “to be ready … susceptible to now.”
Slow food has principles. For instance, Slow Food USA supports good, clean and fair food, linking “the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.”
Slow words can be principled, too. If I were to become a more intent writer, what would my intentions be? I like what happens when I plunk my task into the latter part of Slow Food’s slogan: linking the pleasure of writing with a commitment to community and the environment. I think I have had that intention, for the last dozen or so years: for my writing to accomplish something either for my community, or to help create my community, and the environs in which I live, play and work.
But there’s always more to do, deeper to go in such a vein.
Here we edge closer to commitment. “Slow Food supports good, clean and fair food.”
“Slow Words supports _____, _____ and _____ writing.”
Or maybe it is …
“Slow Words supports _____, _____ and _____ living.”
How would you fill in the blanks?
I like good. I like fair, too. I have been thinking a lot about fair … more on that later. Clean? Well, yes, it’s an adjective often applied to good writing. “This is some good, clean writing,” an editor might say.
But I think there might be other words to put in those blanks.
I was still mulling over these questions, as I finished my morning pages. After some brief morning prayers, I picked up last year’s devotional, A Year with Rilke, featuring readings selected and translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. I had not read every day during the holidays, and wanted to peruse the last few daily readings. There was a long selection for December 23rd, continued onto December 24th. Parts of it were apropo:
Poems don’t come to much when they are written too soon. One should wait and gather the feelings and favors of a whole life, and a long life if possible, and then, just at the end, one might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people suppose, emotions — those come easily and quickly enough. They are experiences.
For the sake of one line of poetry, one must see many cities, people, and things. One must be acquainted with animals and feel how the birds fly, and know the gestures of small flowers opening at the first light. One must be able to think back on paths taken through unknown places, on unanticipated meetings, and on farewells one had long seen coming ….
Rilke goes on, in Macy and Barrow’s selection from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Briggs, a semi-autobiographical novel. But this scrap is enough; words take time, because seeing takes time, and the fermentation of thought even longer.
Slow words are thought-full. Slow words are heart-felt. Slow words are worth the wait. Slow words are like wine, and cheese, needing full fermentation and ripening.
Slow words are like the blue light at dawn, that takes long minutes — every one making a difference — to transmute into rose, gold, and day.
The Coke-and-fries words have their place, too, but I recognize it’s the slow words I want, to make and to read. There may not be many, because I’m slower and slower these days. But I will strive to make a virtue of this reality, rather than a regret.