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Excerpt from Slow is Beautiful by Tsuji Shinichi (Keibo Oiwa)

Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2001

Slow is Beautiful. What does this mean?

Slow, to me, can be understood with modern terms like “ecological” or “sustainable.” One option is to substitute these words for “slow” each time you encounter it in this book. The problem is that buzzwords like the ones above are not yet broken in to our language, so their syllables chafe the tongue despite our best intentions. Using loaded buzzwords in everyday speech is like trying to cup thoughts and feeling with our hands and watching as the ideas fall helplessly through our fingers. These newish terms cannot hold all there is to express and create. Perhaps the word “slow,” so banal and familiar, may be able to summon back our fallen inspiration. “Slow” bridges the easy rhythm of everyday life with technical theories that live only in books.

I marvel at the poetic energy lurking in this common word. To explore that potential, I have combined various keywords of modern life with the word “slow”: slow economy, slow art, slow technology, slow science, slow food, slow design, slow body, slow love…These new combinations of words might stimulate our imagination beyond the original tight meanings of each discipline. They might take us to a new plateau, where we can envision an alternative economy, alternative technology, alternative science, alternative way of eating, an alternative aesthetic sense, an alternative human body, and an alternative way of loving. They might open an entirely different perspective from the typical view shared by most of modern society. I said alternative. However, I’m not here to propose a new theory. Especially for those already familiar with theories, you might find this book a rehashing of old ideas. But rehashing, reconsidering, and recalculating is exactly what’s needed for our lives, right now.

What about the term “beautiful”? More than 30 years ago, African-Americans took up the cry “Black is Beautiful!” It was a declaration of rebirth, an emergence from the pit of discrimination, racism, and self-hate. It proudly proclaimed a re-acceptance and re-affirmation of self. In a similar vein, I’d like to define this word a little differently from the norm. I define “beautiful” as the following attitude: to recognize, accept, and embrace your true nature, without hesitation. Not arrogance or getting over on others or competing mercilessly for superiority. Just knowing yourself, and living simply.

Think about the following terms: Growth. Economic trends. GDP. Efficiency. Competition. Mass production. Mass consumption. Mass disposal. Development. Science and technology. The internet. Genetic engineering. Cloning. The list goes on. These flashy catchphrases lace a contemporary society only made possible thanks to countless negations of our true selves, daily life, and original culture. Our humble but beautiful economy, livelihoods, life-arts, and traditional knowledge that once constituted our lives has been despised and upended. Links between humans and nature, and among humans, true love, a sense of beauty, and a consideration of how our bodies relate to the world around us – all are branded as too slow and relegated to the trash can of modern existence. Only on the corpses of these values can the attractively-named monster – “Affluent Society” – flourish. In recent years the monster has grown to even more gargantuan proportions of speed and size and scope, and its name is Globalization. His heavy steps sweep across the Earth at terrifying speed.

That is why our society and era are filled with curses of self-negation and self-hate. In protest, Slow is Beautiful is a personal incantation, a prayer, prescription, and mantra to protect ourselves from these times, and liberate our lives.

Slow Movies

Mizu ni Natta Mura
Rokkasho Mura Rhapsody
Neno Kuni
Shizen Nou- Kawaguchi Yoshikzu no Sekai
Our Daily Bread

Slow Music

Ryuichi Sakamoto
Anja Light
Fuyuta Matsuya
Tokiko Kato
Kina Shoukichi

Slow Books

In English:

  • You Are, Therefore I Am (Satish Kumar)
  • Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition (Wendell Berry)
  • In Praise of Slowness (Carl Honore)
  • Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (Vandana Shiva)
  • Rowing the Eternal Sea (Keibo Oiwa)
  • Small is Beautiful (E. F. Schumacher)
  • No Logo (Naomi Klein)
  • Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh (Helena Norberg-Hodge)
  • Momo (Michel Ende)

In Japanese:

  • Slow Food na Jinsei: Italia no Shokutaku kara Hajimaru (Natsu Shimamura)
  • Slow is Beautiful (Tsuji Shinichi)
  • Slow Business (Tsuji Shinichi & Ryuichi Nakamura)
  • Shizen Nou kara Nou wo Koete (Yoshikazu Kawaguchi)
  • Kusa no Chikara, Wara no Ie (Goichi Oiwa)
  • Hisen (Edited by Ryuichi Sakamoto)
  • Mirai Shoku (Yumiko Ohtani)
  • Slow Life Hyaku no Keywords (Tsuji Shinichi)
  • Slow Life: Kankyu Jizai no Susume (Tetsuya Chikushi)
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