【Philosopher Café】Swaying Between Acceleration and Deceleration

【Reported by Ye Shuying】In this era of efficiency, many people have begun to advocate slow living. But can one easily differentiate between fast and slow? Does fast necessarily mean efficient? Does slow truly equate to quality? On October 15, 2011, in the Philosopher’s Cafe, under a very relaxed and comfortable environment, surrounded by the aroma of coffee and the sweet taste of deserts, Professor Ku led us into a dialogue of body, mind, and spirit to dig deeper in this issue.

Professor Ku first provided 4 types of temperaments to let attendees contemplate and reflect upon themselves: (1) The quick/impatient temperament -- people who want to have things done quickly or who want to quickly reach their goal; (2) The serene person will do things slowly as long as s/he does not miss the deadline; (3) The “Doer” gets things done quickly and efficiently but with a mind that is at ease;(4) The “Slowpoke” does everything slowly but with an anxious mind.  Professor Ku pointed out that the above 4 temperaments could be expanded or subdivided into more types of quick/slow personalities.This contemplation was just a catalyst for us to reflect upon and get a feel of our own speed.

After analyzing the speed of few attendees’ speech patterns and their demeanors, Professor Ku asked the audience whether the temperament of a person, based on the characteristic of fast or slow, was innate or the result of interactions with the environment.

Some attendeed suggested it is a priori, because children from the same parents often have different temperamental reactions. Other attendees, using their own experiences as examples, claimed that their speed was nurtured, as they were hustled as children. However, they constantly modified their speed due to interactions with the environment. Some pointed out that after realizing the emotional unrest brought on by their impatience, they learned to ask themselves why the need to rush or to slow down. They started to change their speed as a result of such examinations, which revealed a deeper understanding of their mind and themselves.

After more discussion on this topic, the attendees gradually recognized the relativity of fast and slow. Professor Ku then asked everyone whether quick equates to disquiet, and whether slow living will surely bring tranquility, leisure, and comfort. Moreover, besides relativity, doesn’t fast or slow also involve one’s subjective feelings?

In this regard, a high school teacher described the rhythm of her own mind, using The Inner Drum Beat as a metaphor, and received many responses from attendees.The consensus was that the speed was just an outer manifestation; the inner turmoil could only be gleaned or felt by oneself. An attendee who works as a counselor also pointed out the importance of listening to one’s inner voice, because it could balance one’s outer and inner speeds.

Although most people agreed to the benefits of slow living, if presented with the temptations of the fast-lane lifestyle, they wondered how they would make their choices. To resolve this ambivalence, Professor Ku posited an interesting scenario with no time and money restraints; what kind of transportation would the attendees choose when going to a far away place: airplane, bullet train, regular train, or bus? Because this postulation was very close to our daily life, it allowed many slowpokes to participate in the experiment and everyone began to examine the rationale behind their choice of transportation.

As speed is closely connected with time, Professor Ku analyzed the complex concept of time in life, using the Four Moments of Samsara in Buddhism. She took us a step further by integrating the Four Moments﹘the moment of birth, the moments after birth and before death, the moment of death, and the moments of bardo or transitional state ﹘into our lives. When we segmented the four moments of our life as in a montage, we would be able to view the time and speed created by us.

This analysis incited many responses and discussions. The attendees discovered that the determination of one’s speed as fast or slow was related to one’s emotions, acceptances, and expectations. Someone shared her 32-day backpacking trip to Europe. Her heart felt lost when she rushed through one disappointing tourist site to another. In constrast, her heart had a sense of fulfillment when she leisurely walked through sites that corresponded to the senses, even when she stayed at a single attraction for a long time.

Besides our own sense of time, Professor Ku also mentioned that, living in this world, we inevitably have to interact with people. The speed of our reactions and attitudes will be influenced by others; others are also influenced by us. Professor Ku pointed out that when a Mover meets a Slowpoke, the Mover’s need to rush will be intensified. Likewise, the Slowpoke also feels the pressure from the speed of the Mover. Professor Ku provided this scenario in order to allow us to examine and reflect upon our reactions when interacting with others.

Before the end of the event, Professor Ku invited all participants to share their experiences with a few sentences, using the concept of “key words.” A dialogue of multiple perspectives crystallized the idea that “philosophy is a human study of the users, not a caseload of books to be studied.” From a dialogue, based on a simple question -- acceleration or deceleration -- the attendees, through philosophical thinking, encountered the vicissitudes of life and contemplated and reflected upon its difficulties.