Festina Lente (“Hurry Slowly”)

 

“Drink your tea
slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the
world
earth
revolves -
slowly,
evenly,
without rushing
toward the future.”

 

There have been countless times I thought to return. One reader called me the “errant blogger,” another, the “lackadaisical aesthete.”

Whatever the case, I return feeling like an arriviste making the fashionably late entrance to the party, only to discover everyone else has already left.

How and why did I leave at all, I wonder. I’m not entirely sure, nor can I commit to little more right now than a fleeting visit, but with autumn all around me and the days dwindling down, I feel the need, the compulsion really, to remind myself and, perhaps, acquaint a few of you, with a small shift in what passes for my own ‘banalities of the quotidian.’

Interestingly, it is a concept and a popular phrase of the Middle Ages that has me in its grip — “Festina Lente” or “Hurry Slowly.”

The origins of this beautifully mellifluous expression “Festina Lente” is the wonderful paradoxical motto of the Venetian renaissance publisher, Aldus Manutius, who, history tells us, adopted it from the classical scholar, Erasmus, also known by the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists.”

And how very humane Erasmus was in creating a mantra of life he could not possibly have foreseen at a time when the only evidence of speed was born by the beasts bearing mounted knights in combat. As societies moved faster and faster across the span of the ages, who was to notice all that was being lost when delicate things were not treated with respectful slowness, when the tempo of life encouraged people to experience things in their full magnificent complexity.

Who might one day imagine a world where days were little more than blurs and lifetimes were missed in their entirety.

 

 

In honor of that time, before life was lived on the run with a rush toward forgetting, I thought a day devoted to a deep slow read was just the thing to break me away from my digitally crazed addictions.

I chose Milan Kundera’s appropriately titled “Slowness: A Novel” for obvious reasons. In his own inimitable style, Kundera ruminates on the lost art of living. We have become such unrecognizable creatures that we no longer can appreciate the small, the inconsequential, the nuanced, he seems to say.

Despite Kundera’s own personal disclaimer about the novel’s seriousness, (he proudly claimed the book had “not a single serious word in it”) reviewers were more astute in suggesting Slowness resonated with “a profound meditation on contemporary life,” where “the connection between our era’s desire to forget and the way we have given ourselves over to the demon of speed,” have changed us irrevocably.

 

 

To explore this idea Kundera tells the story of a midsummer’s night in which two tales of seduction, separated by more than two-hundred years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime and the comic.

In the present we have the trappings of an over cranked world, keeping us jittery, hyper vigilant and so focused on the destination, we fail to notice the journey. In the past, we have the drifters of yesteryear who, with their easy indolence, symbolized the leisurely pace of the times.

Kundera retells the story of Vivant Demon’s 18th century novel Point de lendemain, which describes one long, slow night of seduction and lovemaking between a young chevalier and an older woman, during which very little is lost. The seductress creates the tensions to build and relax symphonically over the course of the night “giving the small span of time accorded them the semblance of a marvelous small architecture…for what is formless cannot be grasped, or committed to memory. Conceiving their encounter as a form was especially precious for them, since their night was to have no tomorrow and could be repeated only through recollection.”

While the senses are fully sated for the romantic, there is much for the philosophical, as well. We encounter a narrator and his wife, who are taking an unplanned holiday, driving down a country highway in search of a romantic château. Impatient, the narrator inquires:

“Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folksongs, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars?”

Slowness: The Novel is typical Kundera: whimsical and thoughtful, unfocused and insightful. While no profound revelations are apparent, when the last word is read, there is a satisfaction to be had in knowing that here is a rather concise description of our time-starved, image-obsessed, future-shocked world, in a most eloquent form.

A marvelous book to read and savor very, very slowly.

 

 

The 16th Century French Poet Nicolas Boileau captured it beautifully in his Art of Poetry:

 

“Hurry… slowly,
one hundred times
go back
to your
intent
and
strengthen
it.”

 

 

Image: “A Man seated reading at a Table in a Lofty Room” c.1630, Art Connu
Quote: Thich Nhat Hanh
Sculpture: Borghese Hermaphroditus, Louvre Museum
Google Images

 

~ by eaesthete on 09/16/11.

28 Responses to “Festina Lente (“Hurry Slowly”)”

  1. You’re back! At least, visiting. You have made my day and my autumn.

  2. I loved that book and missed your posts. I’m happy you’re here for however long you decide to stay.

  3. A lovely moment for that dwindling-light time of day. Thank you.

  4. Thank you for this surprise! Wishing you well….

  5. Happy to see that you’re back… Great post!

  6. Have missed you but this was a posting well worth the wait.

  7. I, too, welcome you back to our virtual space. Hurry, slowly. This could only be Italian, as I am.

  8. Welcome back EA! And what an apt topic to dwell on as your come-back piece. As the world spins in an ever maddening pace, swept by the blinding gales of social media, deep ruminations and thoughtful utterances are becoming more and more rare in cyberspace. Thanks for creating posts like this one, for they are much needed. As a supporter of the slow blogging movement, I welcome each post you produce at your own pace, and would savor it until the next one, albeit it’s always a pleasure to see you post more often. Anyway, until your next one, it’s Festina Lente that I’ll dwell upon…

  9. I am happy every time you are here. Each time you write and post inspiring images, I perceive it as a gift.

  10. oh EA I missed you!!!!!!!

  11. Usually when my inbox has a notice about your blog, it turns out to be a reply to one of your old posts, so I must admit to a frisson of pleasure this morning when I discovered an actual new post from the EA. As expected, it was both thoughtful and thought provoking, and was accompanied by the usual high level selection of images. After my daughter’s wedding on 9/4 and completing a major project on 9/11, I’m trying to adjust my life to a more leisurely pace, so I think I will pick up a copy of Slowness to help the process along.

    Festina Lente your comeback and I’m sure it will go well.

  12. Thank you. . . .

  13. I love the refinement of your blog. What elegance! I much admire your style and presence.

  14. A repose returns. I appreciate you just the way you are. Thank you.

  15. glad you’re back!

  16. Welcome home, Miss EA. It was worth the wait.
    Here’s your martini (ultra-sec!).

    Carlos

  17. Someone beat me to “welcome home”….so DITTO

  18. This post – grateful for your sudden return, but prepared for another departure – strangely captured all I was feeling today as the leaves are turning prematurely and all the global news is bad, yet the demands from work and home increase. How can it be mid-September already? Clearly, I’ve been hurrying AND missing everything! At least this plea for thoughtfulness and maybe more importantly focus, will not fall on my deaf ears today.

  19. So happy to have you back. The medium is not always the message. Your website is a good example of this. We all should write when we have something to say.

  20. L’enfant prodigue est de retour au pays…

  21. After a plaintive “yelp of OMG!” the words to Melody Gardot’s “Baby I’m a Fool” came to mind when I once again clicked to you Errant to see if you’d come back…don’t be fleeting…your audience awaits you.

    How was I to know that this was always only just a little
    game to you? All the time I felt you gave your heart I thought that I
    would do the same for you, Tell the truth I think I should have seen it coming from
    a mile away, When the words you say are, “Baby I’m a fool who thinks it’s cool to fall in love”
    If I gave a thought to fascination I would know it wasn’t right to care, Logic doesn’t seem to mind that I am fascinated by the love affair, Still my heart would benefit from a little tenderness from time to time, but never mind, Cos Baby I’m a fool who thinks it’s cool to fall in love, Baby I should hold on just a moment and be sure it’s not for vanity, Look me in the eye and tell me love is never based upon
    insanity, Even when my heart is beating hurry up the moment’s fleeting, Kiss me now, Don’t ask me how, Cos Baby I’m a fool who thinks it’s cool to fall, Baby I’m a fool who thinks it’s cool to fall,
    And I would never tell if you became a fool and fell in Love.

    Simply, Italia,

  22. Never got the hang of Kundera (Mrs. E calls his most known work “The Unbearable Longness of Novel.”) But I may try this one, if I can carve out the time (joined a book club in order to change the type of book I read).

    I love he concept of Festina Lente and it’s a good thing I’m not the tattoo’ing type.

  23. You’re back. What a happy surprise.

  24. Oh! Like a crocus through the frost – but you’re out of season. Here’s to an anomalous autumnal spring. Please, stick around.

  25. Word up, glad you are back…

    “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

    – T. H. White, The Once and Future King

  26. how i wish i could live in your time and space, all is so soothing and consciously,
    a tinny white flower on the smile.

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