L'Atelier de Charenton

« I’m blown away by how much the Slow Revolution has grown. » Carl Honoré. Photo DR

In our fast moving world blasting off like a rocket ship, i wanted to take time on « Slow » concept and find out how things are going for Carl Honoré. Sponsor of the Atelier de Charenton, main core of the Slow Mouvement, supporter of slowing down for better living and author of « In Praise of Slow », Carl was kind enough to answer my questions.

Carl Honoré, could you tell us the most original project you are currently dealing with or about to ?

I am now writing a book about our attitudes to ageing. The cult of youth is out of control. Until now my work has been based on the idea that “faster is not always better.” The message of the new book is that “younger is not always better.”

I’m working with a new messaging app called Jack where the sender chooses when the recipient can open the message – from one hour up to receiving it to infinity. It’s all about using the Web to promote delayed gratification and the joy of looking forward to things.

Thanks to you, l’Atelier de Charenton is extolling « Slow »’s benefits. Could you give an update of this global movement ? Basically, how is it changing ?

I’m blown away by how much the Slow Revolution has grown. When I first starting kicking around the idea of a “ slow movement ”, things were just starting to happen, and mostly below the radar. Now Slow is mainstream. Everywhere, people are using the lens of Slow to rethink what they’re doing in order to do it better. So along with the old favourites like Slow Food and Slow Cities there are now movements for Slow Travel, Slow Design, Slow Copywriting, Slow Science, Slow Parenting, Slow Education, Slow Houses, Slow Research, Slow Hiking, Slow Parks, Slow Libraries, Slow Sex, Slow Technology, Slow Art and on and on and on. Even people you would never expect to embrace Slow are doing so: just look at the robust Slow Fashion movement. I also like how people are finding ways to be on the Web in a Slow way. Look at all the meditation and mindfulness apps. Or how software geeks are designing game with a Slow aesthetic.

I am regularly contacted by students who are devoting their university thesis to some aspect of Slow. Every day, I get emails from people around the world telling me how slowing down has changed their lives, their careers, their families, their companies for the better. We are all scared to decelerate, so it gives us confidence to see others doing so and reaping the benefits. The knock-on effect is really starting to kick in now.

That said, of course, speed and acceleration remain the dominant bias in our culture. It’s just that the countercurrent from Slow is exploding now, too.

Could you tell us about one concrete application of the Slow worth duplicate ?

I recently met the headteacher of a school in Peru where every lesson starts with 5 minutes of silence during which the pupils read a book of their choice. It brings a wonderful serenity and focus to the day.

Concerning kids, are we still running for performance or did it improve ?

Things are getting better. More and more people are realising that children need time and space to explore the world on their own terms: that is how they learn to think, invent and socialise; to take pleasure from things; to work out who they are, rather than what we want them to be.

So cities across North America are now holding official slow-down days when all extracurricular activities and homework are cancelled to give children time to relax, play, hang out – to be children. From Toronto to Tokyo, schools are cutting back the homework load. Singapore is revamping its education system to make more time for reflection and put more emphasis on well-being and emotional literacy. A Harvard dean has even written an open letter to students extolling the virtues of doing less and relaxing more. Its title: “Slow Down.” Families are cutting back on technology and extracurricular activities to give children more time to play, daydream, explore, even get bored.

According to you, what is a Slow children painting shop? Could you close your eyes and tell us what it would look like ?

It’s a place where there are no deadlines. Where children explore, learn and interact at their own pace. Where there are no right answers. Where teachers instruct with a light touch. Where curiosity is king. Where children also teach and learn from each other. Where there is plenty of natural light and lots of beautiful objects to look at and touch. A place that is safe but also open to the community.

L’Atelier de Charenton is turning 10 this year. What’s your message ?

The best way for children to thrive in a fast world is to slow down. Patience is still a virtue.

« Thank you very much Carl for answering my questions in French for l’Atelier visitors. We hope to hear from you on a regular basis and look forward your new book ! Carl Honoré has an English website ; whose moto is « Less Frantic, More Flow », you can find out more about following this link : http://www.carlhonore.com

Interview by Sandrine Sananes. Translation by Raphaëlle Sananes


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