Archive for time

The Secret Powers of Time

A fascinating RSA (animated) video on Philip Zimbardo's ideas about time … how different cultures (and generations) experience time differently and what that means for life as they know it:



Slow Community

With all my musing lately on slow work, and slow blogging, I was very excited to hear about my friend Nancy White’s extrapolating on this idea in what she calls slow community. In her inimitable capacity to identify patterns and make connections, she’s been talking about how quickly the interconnectivity of the web has grown beyond our abilities to stay connected in meaningful ways. (This image is a "splat map" of the internet’s growth since its beginnings in ARPANET (the green bit in the middle):


Variations on this theme are being discussed all over the media – two books among my own pile of bedtime reading focus on the topic in one way or another; Peter Block’s new Community: The Structure of Belonging, and Dot Calm (I love that title) – but what I particularly like about the concept of slow community is that it offers us a context with which to negotiate this growing nexus of interactivity on our own terms.

On a personal level, I long for a slower more reflective life, and I crave the depth and reflectivity and true connection that is possible within communities – online and off – that share these values.

On a professional level, the idea of "slow community" gives a conceptual framework to the online communities I help facilitate, or steward, through which we can identify and "see" ourselves. It also gives us a sense of what we might be evolving towards, or the kind of depth we might WANT to nurture between ourselves.

Some have spoken about the depth and quality of our attention as a key to slow community. I strongly believe that it’s possible – and as difficult – to be as deeply connected through our online communications as it is anywhere else. The online medium has its own challenges, of course, but it also has advantages, and one of them can be time. For all its limitations and lack of physical cues, writing is a slower medium than speaking. Writing gives us the time to reflect and consider those responses that can just "pop out" as unthinking reflexivity in real-time interaction and craft them into shapes that can more clearly carry the meanings we want to convey.

One might also ask whether the word community can be used to define all the ways we interact online. Is Twitter a community? Are the people who read my blog a community? I’m curious about what the boundaries are, or what the defining features of community are for different people.

For myself, I actually think this question of what community is and isn’t refers back to my earlier point about quality or more accurately, intent. In this framework, the word might be applied to any communication where the intent is to "commune", be that on Twitter, or within our blogging readerships, online conversations, or physical neighborhoods for that matter.

Having the intent to commune with each other requires an altogether different relationship to time. There’s something here about respecting time and entering into interactions with a
"presence" that makes the most of it, that expands time so that there’s
enough for whatever is needed.

Someone left a comment on one of Nancy White’s posts on this subject, bringing up the Quaker model where they moved VERY slowly as a community in discussing the challenges of slavery, and yet were still the first to stand up and call for abolition. This example shows us that slowness doesn’t necessarily mean an inability to respond to the challenges of the day, but rather offers the capacity to respond in a more profound and ultimately even more timely way.

* * * * * *

Here’s a video from a presentation on the subject that Nancy did at Zaadz (now the Gaia Community), which has some terrible sound production, but asks some great questions:

She’s also created a page on her online facilitation wiki devoted to slow community, which in turn has links to other helpful resources.


Saturday I went on an adventure with my friend Joan Underwood, visiting native plant nurseries and hunting for buckeye seedpods on the side of the road. We were up in Tilden Park when we were distracted by a "Pottery Sale" sign…

Joan is a potter and we are both lovers of the craft, so we gaily (and only slightly guiltily) let ourselves be temporarily swayed from our tasks to follow the sign.


I’m so glad we did. We soon found ourselves admiring the ceramic art of James Newton, which was displayed attractively throughout his house. There was a great range of dinnerware and sculptural work being shown at very reasonable prices, including pit firings, raku, and this decorative technique using maple leaves. Tim – who is also a masseur and reiki practitioner – and Joan were soon deep in pot-tech conversation, so I continued to explore until I found the charming little studio where all this beauty was created, tucked away down a flight of stairs.

I fell in love with the studio immediately, imagining myself sitting at the wheel, peacefully throwing pots and looking out on the lovely koi pond and garden right outside. It looked like one could open the glass doors in summer and be right outside for some plein air potting.

After our little detour, Joan took me to Annie’s Annuals (now I understand why it’s famous around these parts), where I was able to find the perfects plants for the little garden that leads off my own downstairs office.

They have wonderful exhibition gardens and fully-grown examples of most species so you can really see what you’re getting, and the people who work there are very knowledgeable and friendly. If you’ve never been there and live anywhere in the bay area, I highly recommend visiting this incredible resource for plants – not only natives, and only some of them annuals, knowledge, and creative inspiration.

Our day’s adventure was a little longer than we’d anticipated, but just the psychic freedom of not having to answer to anyone else for time spent was worth it in itself. And the pleasure of finding new resources and kindred spirits was, as the MasterCard commercials say, "priceless".


So, the moral of this story is to follow whatever signs cross your path if they make your heart beat faster with joy and anticipation. You just may end up with a butter-yellow bowl on your dinner table and an anagalis monelli in your garden…