October 30, 2013

Reflections on the Slow Life

One thing most homesteaders seem to have in common is the desire to slow down. There seems to be a universal recognition that modern life is just too fast paced, too hectic, and too complicated. Have you ever wondered to where everyone is in such a hurry to get? The next stoplight? I don't know about you, but having been around enough decades, it seems to me that the pace has picked up. It seems more frantic and more desperate than before. It's as though our inner clocks are being wound tighter and tighter as time goes by.

Hand crank blender
There are theories regarding this. One I call the electromagnetic frequency theory. The frequency of the human body ranges from about 62-68 Hertz (Hz). The human brain is said to be lower, 1 to 30 Hz, depending upon one's state of sleep or wakefulness. Electric and electronic devices operate in megahertz (MHz with mega = million), for example, cell phones at 824 to 849 MHz, AM radio at 535 KHz (kilo = 1000) to 1.7 MHz, FM radio at 88 to 108 MHz, television at 54 to 220 MHz, microwave ovens at 2.45 GHz (giga = billion), even baby monitors at 49 MHz.

Does being in constant contact with modern electronic devices have an effect on our nervous systems? Is it true that as the usage of such devices increases, so do things like road rage, violence, insomnia, anxiety, short tempers, impatience, depression, a basic dissatisfaction with life, etc.? I'm sure some will debate the premise, but it is interesting to note that in addressing insomnia, sleep therapists recommend disengaging oneself from all electronic device activity at least an hour before going to bed and doing something old-fashioned like read an honest to goodness paper based book. Some go so far as to suggest moving the clock radio off the night stand. And a new field of medical science is researching the electromagnetic frequencies at which disease microorganisms activate within the human body.

My favorite mixing tools - an egg beater & a Polish whisk

Have you ever noticed how quite your house becomes if the electricity is down for some reason? All the things we keep plugged in vibrate and hum. We hear it all day and never seem to notice. Does that effect us too? Off-griders, you probably have some interesting things to say about this.

Whether it's true or not, it certainly does seem a plausible explanation as to why society has its foot on the lifestyle accelerator. I can't help but wonder that if we took an electric/electronic sabbatical, could we "reset" ourselves, if we wouldn't feel calmer and less stressed out. I know it seems one more good reason to pull the plug and find manual alternatives to so many of the things we do. The trade-off is that it takes more time to do things by hand, so that I feel like I'm getting less done.

 My manual food processor

I can't help but wonder that if one of my goals is to slow down, then why am I so impatient to get there? What do you think?

Reflections on the Slow Life © October 2013 by Leigh


Sandy Livesay said...


I believe you hit the head of the nail dead on with your post.

Everyone is in a hurry to get places, to be on the telephone, to text or talk. There's no socializing in person any more. People are using their phones to communicate with one another even if the person your talking to is across the table from you. Everything in their lives is centered around electronics.
If you took all of these electronics away, most people wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

I prefer to slow down and remove most electronic devices.

Ngo Family Farm said...

Oh my, such a fascinating topic! We are still quite dependent on electricity I'm sad to say, but there are several major things (dishwasher, TV, etc,) that we do without, and every singe time we have visitors, they never fail to comment on how quiet it is here. When I'm out, I always feel that my surrounding are too loud and too fast-paced. You may look busier when rushing around, but I'm not so sure that actually equates to getting more done. That said, there are days when I feel like hand washing the dishes takes so much time! But in the end, I'm always glad I spend my time doing this task myself, rather than working for someone else so that I can make money to give the power company to run a dishwasher for me!

Quinn said...

On your last question, good timing! I recently listened to a recording of one of Thich Nhat Han's Dharma talks in which he talked about recognizing and changing the habit of that constant underlying push to be/get somewhere else. He recommended mentally reciting the phrase "I have arrived" while walking, to refocus on the present moment. :)

daisy g said...

I couldn't agree more. Instead of focusing on quality, folks are so concerned about getting things done in a hurry and going on to the next task or goal. How much better would our lives be if we just took the time to appreciate each moment as it is gifted to us? Easier said than done...;0)

Leigh said...

Sandy, I have to agree. We seem dependent on our devices in an increasingly unhealthy way. There is no such thing as conversation any more. And sadly, it seems that the next person calling is always more important than the person being spoken to at the moment.

Jaime, I feel the same way about dishwashing! Especially on canning or cooking days. And it's true, the time saving convenience isn't free.

Quinn, that's hitting the nail on the head! It is all about habit! I think if folks could recognize that they'd be able to begin to establish new, healthier habits. I had to retrain myself to think to reach for a hand tool instead of an electric device. And really, when it comes to kitchen stuff, hand tools are usually faster to set up, use, and clean up.

Daisy, well put. It is about quality, but folks are too much in a hurry to recognize that.

Mama Pea said...

Couldn't agree with you more regarding electrical impulses not being "good" for us. (Even those made with alternative energy sources aren't better in respect to their effect on our bodies!) However, I've lived without running water and electricity and if I could only have one, it would be electricity. (Primarily for the lights.)

We can choose to eliminate many electrical appliances (in the kitchen) which I do, but when it comes to the computer, for instance, could one function in today's society without one? If one wasn't a hermit living the most simplistic of lives?

Part of the sense of time going faster and faster, I believe, is caused because we have too many choices. Plain and simple. Is that a bad thing? Dunno. But it sure was simpler and life was lived at a more leisurely pace when one made do with what one had without bombardment of all the choices.

Good post!

benita said...

You know I never considered this before, but I think you might be on to something here. I wonder how a study can be done on this?

For what it is worth, I much prefer a potato masher to the mixer for making mashed potatoes. It's less messy.

Katy said...

okay I'm sure you are right but - I can't give up the electric stand mixer. I've got one from the 1950's that's built like a tank and still runs like a stopwatch, and I love it. I can't mix really thick/heavy batters by hand, I feel like I'm going to break my wrist! :P
Im still addicted to the washing machine, the dryer, and the dishwasher. With 3 kids and working full time, they are literally necessary for our daily survival. I can't hand wash clothes and leave them outside, the kids would be going naked to school within a couple of days. :)

Hopefully someday I can slow down - preferably before I'm dead. hahaha :P

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, I've considered that our best use of electricity (because I live with hot, humid summers) is for my 2 refrigerators and chest freezer, then my computer! Everything else there's an alternative for. I can't deny that it makes many chores easier, but on the other hand, society as a whole seems to go overboard with their beloved gizmos and gadgets.

Benita, I agree about those mashed potatoes! Funny how time consuming to set up and clean those time saving gadgets can be.

I have no idea if there are studies on this. But every now and then experts mention something that points to the same conclusion (like the sleep therapists).

Katy, you don't have to give up your mixer, I promise! LOL.

Ed said...

I guess I will be a dissenting vote. I think people are in such a hurry because they want to be. I have modern day gadgets in my life but I deliberately keep my distance from everyone else hurrying around. My gadgets save me a lot of time so instead of beating eggs whites for ever, I can be enjoying that fire and a good book for that much longer. On the flip side, I know people without all the modern gadgets who are what I call helicopter people. They are always hovering going from one place to the next and their calendar has more black than white space. They are just programmed to be like that by their parents. Back at our old house, we lived next door to some helicopter parents and on some days I could count their car leaving their driveway up to 20 times a day sometimes for only five minutes before returning. I go days without my car leaving the driveway!

However, I think this is an excellent post and enjoyed reading it just the same.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

I love this post and I have to agree with you. I've found myself using electrical appliances less and less and since I sit in front of a computer every day, there is nothing better at the end of the day than sitting out on my deck watching chicken TV unplugged.

DFW said...

I completely agree with you on all accounts.

Had a friend that was asleep one night & he woke up suddenly because the electricity had gone out. Imagine, the quiet woke him up. Next thing he heard was the back door opening. Yep, burglars. He got his gun out of the nightstand & met them coming down the hallway. He wound up killing one & wounding the other. His house was way off the main road. He had a neighbor one driveway down (about 1/4 mile away) who was in politics. Turns out it was the neighbor they were after. They had broken into the wrong house, in more ways than one.

Leigh said...

Ed, "helicopter people," I like that, LOL. I agree with you about people being programmed to be busy. It becomes habit and if there's nothing to do, they find something!

I'd like to clarify about modern day gadgets. It's not owning and using them, it's the constant bombardment of high electromagnetic impulses that is thought to "push" folks. Perhaps it eventually agitates their nervous systems? I don't know. It's just one theory that I thought interesting enough to blog about.

Candace, thank you! I think simply disengaging ourselves from busyness goes a long way to keeping our sanity!

DFW, wow, that's a story. One that none of us would like to experience personally! It is true that once we get used to peripheral noise, sudden silence is deafening.

Woolly Bits said...

I don't know if it's the electrification of everything, but I think it might be part of the "growth-more-own" generations? in business there has to be growth (stagnation is badbadbad!), everybody wants more of everything, even if their lives are cramped with useless posessions and many people want to own more than all the generations before. if you have achieved something, you have to get more to be somebody. if you only own a small house,you have to go bigger (I wonder why so many people here enlarge their houses even if all the kids have gone???). you are "somebody" if you own a big car, a big house etc. -and of course most people won't achieve that if they don't "helicopter" around... you have to at least seem busy to be somebody - if you just sit somewhere and watch, you're worth less (at least that's how it often feels to me). and the lunacy - as soon as you own the big house, the big car - you go on far away holidays to be somewhere else:) the lunacy of the modern age....

Amy Lou said...

Really great post. As for off-gridders, I will say that every one of them that I know (including myself) has found a way to bring some sort of electronic device into their homes (laptops and Internet, cell phones and TVs)... So for every one of us it's a choice. We have to choose to slow down, to "reset" as you called it. And when we do, it's a good choice.
You made me laugh with that last bit... If our goal is to slow down, why are we so impatient to get there? That's so true. I think we just have to forgive ourselves a little, knowing that the mere fact that we're aware of such things means that we're on the right path, even if we use our electric blenders to save a little time. :)

Anonymous said...

I was watching South Park, i guess Cartman said: "what's the point? We all gonna end up with wifi cancer" It was a joke in that episode but I believe that internet related problems will be chronic, like insomnia. At least they accept the relation btw insomnia and screens.

Leslie Kimel said...

I like to turn off all the lights and TV and everything and sit by candlelight sometimes. I feel so much less stressed out.

I love your egg beater!

Renee Nefe said...

Hubby & I would love a little rustic cabin in the woods one day...but I wonder about how rustic it should be, and how far out into the woods it should be as we're not getting any younger. sigh!

I think for now, I'll settle with getting a place on some land so that my neighbors aren't quite so visible.

Bill said...

A fascinating and thought-provoking post. Even for homesteaders there are temptations to use machines to speed things up and make things louder. Some days I work outside for hours with an ipod blasting in my ears. I love music, but that kind drowns our the beautiful natural music, so I have to be disciplined about how often I use it. I've found that unwanted noise really irritates me now. A low flying plane, a noisy truck on a nearby highway, or even the mail-lady driving down to our house because she has a package too big for our mailbox, seem to be major disturbances. But back in my city life I wouldn't even notice sounds like that, because they'd be mixed in with a thousand others. But if those sounds (when isolated) are so disruptive of peace, then how much more a non-stop avalanche of them must be, even if we're used to it.
Thanks for the reminder to slow down and to keep the noise down. :)

Stephanie Bateman said...

What a great subject! I think that electronics do play a major part in our lifes, and the pace of it. I don't know about the technical side that you brought up, but I do know that the "instant" way of life certainly takes away from the slower pace. My brother gets mad when I don't answer my cell phone immediately if he calls. That is because I do not keep it attached to me at all times. I use it like you would an older landline....If I don't answer because I am busy, leave a message.

Cathy said...

I like everything off while I'm working. I need silence. If I could, I'd unplug the fridge - it makes a high pitched whine that bugs me.

I feel everyone could benefit from reading One Square Inch of Silence - one man's quest to preserve quiet by Gordon Hempton Great sigh of relief to discover I am not the only one who longs for total silence.

Except for bird song and coyote calls.

Josef Theisen said...

Russel "buddy" Helm has a lot to say about this in his book titled The Way of the Drum. He writes about the effect of rhythm on our everyday lives. He has very similar views about the effects of electronic hyperfast rhythms that we encounter in machines. It's a great read with stories of his life as a musician and instruction in the hand drum; both as an instrument and as a tool for managing rhythm and coping with stress.

Leigh said...

Bettina, excellent points. Bigger, faster, and more are considered better. But why? Who says so? It truly is lunacy.

Amy Lou, thank you! I think the goal shouldn't be no electric or electronic devices, but rather the ability to choose to use them or not. To not be dependent upon them. Many are great innovations and helpful. Others are just gimmicks to get our money, I think.

Gasilhane, it's interesting that it's acknowledged in jokes, although I daresay folks would insist they're only kidding. Still, we live in an age where we should have a better quality of life, yet our health is worse than ever before. Correlation, perhaps?

Leslie, I think that's a wise idea, to take breaks like that. It's true it helps us de-stress a bit.

Renee, that not getting any younger is a problem for us all! ;)

Bill, I can so relate to what you say about noise. And music too, because it does affect us. I like that you strive for balance, as we all should.

Stephanie, thanks! Good point about instant gratification. Your brother reminds me of folks I know. They hang up after two or three rings, as if everybody just lives for their phone!

Cathy, what a delight to hear from you. And thank you for the book recommendation. I am definitely a total silence person too. I don't even listen to music much.

Josef, hello! And thank you for the comment and especially the book recommendation. Sounds like a good resource for those interesting in this topic. Interesting about the hand drum too.

Su Ba said...

What a great topic! One of my reasons to move to Hawaii and start a homestead life was to slow down.

One little trick that helped us slow down was to have a watch that beeped every hour. Whenever it beeped, I'd stop and "experience life" for one minute -- smell the air, feel the wind on my skin, listen to nature's sounds, watch a bug or worm, visually investigate a flower, closely inspect a handful of soil. Initially it was amazingly difficult to "waste" 60 seconds doing "nothing" but the method finally broke the ice and got us in the habit of slowing down a bit.

Another trick was to make a time schedule for myself and keep records in the beginning. Each week day was allotted to 3 hours of working on the house (we're building our own), 3 hrs to creating the farm & gardening, 3 hrs to caring for my parents, 3 hrs to maintenance (house cleaning, laundry, shopping,etc), 3 hrs "my time" (Internet, do paperwork, do a task that I personally wanted to do). Weekends were 3 hrs of work then the rest of the time varied.

I now like living off grid, using hand tools, not having to attain goals in order to be considered successful and thus happy. Oh, I do indeed use time and effort saving tools, but that gives me time to relax, pursue enjoyable activities, explore and experiment.

It took almost a lifetime for me to realize that I was running out of time to change my lifestyle. It as like being in a hurry just so that I could die.

...Su Ba

Bootzey said...

I seemed to have lost you somehow... But now that I have found you, I'm catching back up....

There is nothing wrong with retention of manual ways in this technological society. It's priceless to be able to do something "old school" and amaze the kids.

Leigh said...

Su Ba, those are some excellent ideas for helping us re-train ourselves! It's so true that we should focus less on checking things off a goal list, and more on the beauty of life.

Serenity, good to hear from you! Your comment reminds me that one excellent reason to learn to do things by hand is so the skills are not lost. Children need to know these things even if it's only so they can appreciate the conveniences and tools they have now.