I have a few more thoughts on the space of slow. Here’s the deal. To function in the world we have to assume a lot. To act, we don’t have the time to test every assumption. This is true of everything from driving to worshipping to conducting a scientific experiment. And the faster we go, which is the pace our society encourages, the more we have to assume.
Another way to talk about this is that we live in a constructed world that we share with others. Charles Taylor calls this shared world, a social imaginary. Martin Heidegger called it the life world. Whatever you call it, its a functional version of how things are, not necessarily the way things actually are. And the faster you go, the more impervious the social imaginary is to change. Heidgger calls this entanglement, which keeps us from seeing “the thing itself.” In other words, our assumed way of seeing things obscures our ability to encounter the real thing.
I think there’s an analogy here with Paul’s thought. Paul talks about seeing things from a “human point of view,” or from the perspective of the “flesh,” which is the world given to us by the principalities and powers. To see what God is actually up to requires a different way of seeing. For Paul, the ability to recognize God’s presence in the world depends upon what you see when you view the cross. To some, the cross is foolishness and weakness, but to others it is God’s power, God’s way of being in the world that has the potency to renew all things.
The point with Paul is that it’s not immediately obvious to us how God is involved in the details of life. And the more we assume the world given to us, the less likely we are to recognize it.
One more insight from Heidegger. He was critiquing the Western philosophical tradition, from the ancient Greeks (Plato and Aristotle) all the way to the Enlightenment (what Matthew Crawford is talking about when he critiques the modern myth of the autonomous individual). One way to describe Heidegger’s critique is that the Western philosophical tradition is subject centered. That is, the world corresponds to the way I (the subject) perceive it. What’s going on inside of me (the subject) trumps anything external to me, which subsequently turns the world into a series of objects. There is no “social imaginary,” a constructed world, because the subject is sufficient to see the world as it actually is, especially if freed from the prejudices of tradition.
Heidegger, and other philosophers (Gadamer, Ricoeur, Marion, Taylor to name a few) challenge these assumptions and actually reverse the direction of subject–>world. The world is no longer simply made up of subjects and objects, but there is a complex reality that comes before a “subject’s” awareness of it. We understand the world because we participate in it, because it is a reality apart from our ideas about it. So, reality is not something centered in a knowing subject, but is external to us and happens around us and between us. Heidegger made up a word for this reality (because the development of Western languages was deeply influenced by this subject-object way of viewing the world): Dasein. Dasein is his way to name the being that precedes us, which he says we are “thrown into,” and in which we can become entangled.
Here’s the big point related to all of this. Our notions of space (and time, but that’s another blog) are challenged. The world around us is no longer simply a world of objects to be mastered by an aquiring subject. The world inside of us is not prior to the world around us. Rather, to truly understand ourselves, we have to get beyond the world inside our heads and into larger spaces for discernment. We no longer simply have a self, we have a world.
So, in this larger space, how do we truly see, or to use Jean Luc Marion’s phrase, how do we let things show themselves as themselves? Slow. If we run as fast as our current social imaginary encourages us to, then the world around us can only be what we imagine it to be. And this is a world of objects. But if we slow down long enough to put what we encounter in parentheses so that we can look at them again, then what we see has an integrity of its own beyond what we assume when we encounter it.
Now, you can’t do this with everything at once. To get through a day, you simply have to assume things, trust things. But the posture of slow will allow us to see some things anew.
I am convinced that there is not a single spiritual discipline that tries to get us to go faster. Nowhere does it say that the fruit of the Spirit is urgency. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit foster slow: patience, humility, kindness, joy, etc.