The clock is ticking no matter what people do. Some people choose to be busier than others, as well as some people do prefer do the path less travelled. Carl Honore’s “In Praise of Slowness” and Richard Tomkins “Old Father Time Becomes a Terror”, each author shows a genuine concern for the fast paced society. Carl Honore discusses the praise of slowness through a very bias window and shows his personal experiences with slowing down and realizing how fast life goes, expressing a high interest for people to see things though his eyes. Richard Tomkins portrays a broader view of the issues of today’s world in comparison to the positive life of another era, leaving himself out. In a comparison of the two articles, I will be displaying how each author presents the problems, their causes, and solutions in their own way. Although both Tomkins and Honore believe modern day people are too rushed, there are differences in the way they portray the problems in their articles. Carl Honore begins his essay by describing “New York-it is” as a serious illness “whose symptoms included edginess, impulsiveness, impatience, aggressiveness, quick, fast movements,” as if these “symptoms” can kill you.
He further expresses his concern for the growing disease as a “world-wide epidemic” to show that this problem has become so out of control that it is no longer a disease that belongs to New York alone (203). Honore displays the need for speed as “an unfulfilling and unsatisfying way to live”, much like the feeling one would have when coming down from a high, yet people continue to do everything with “more speed” like it is an addiction. He also explains how people can “sense” this way of living is not good, as if the ideas are not fully there and people barely get it (203-4). Honore gives a negative vibe when he describes “our cult of speed”, which shows he is bias to the act of slowness. People tend to think negatively toward cults because they portray unusual ideas that are not generally accepted as normal. The “significant evidence” that Honore claims to have against the drawbacks of speed; “Americans now work more hours than the Japanese, and Europeans; hurried parents now read one-minute bedtime stories to their children,” is nothing more than the use of the word “now” to show that things have not always been this way.
This shows the drawbacks as a burden to people, since they do not have the same amount of time they used to. When Honore talks about the realization of becoming a pointless race, he portrays it as a “moment, a wake-up call” which sounds like it is a one time occurrence, and people do not ever think about this it just hits them all at once like a ton of bricks. Honore shows his personal experience of reading to his kids as not fun or enjoyable while explaining that he was “whizzing my way through The Cat in The Hat, skipping a line here, a paragraph there, sometimes a whole page.” The trappings of the “speed tunnel” people are stuck in is displayed here since people can not even take enough time out of their own lives to fully read a simple book like The Cat in The Hat to their children. While rushing in an airport in Rome, Honore himself cannot even enjoy the surroundings of the ancient city, instead he is concerned with business and getting on the next flight, which is precisely the slowness he describes people to be lacking.
The only thing that had the ability to take his mind away from all the hustle and bustle was an article to save time, which he has no problem taking away from his kids and their “bedtime ritual” (204). “Another victim of our speed culture is food: so many of our meals are pit-stops, so much of our food is processed, spewed out by an industrial food-chain that it doesn’t even taste like food anymore,” says Honore, which shows that meals are no longer a slow process and people just want to fill up and get back on the road again. Furthermore, Honore describes food as a “victim” as if it is being abused and tortured, and uses the word “spewed” as if the food is coming up so quick it cannot be stopped, like a person is throwing up. When on the topic of sex, Honore talks about the “finish-line approach” as if it is a race to be won and it does not matter how fast people get there. He also displays sexual imagery as greasy when he describes it as “saturated” like people are absorbing a fat, a thick layer of skin (206).
However, much like the tense feeling people get in their shoulders, Tomkins also gives an impression of thick skin, when describing everyday mornings as stressful, as if stress adds another layer to the body. Also, the way he describes everything that is happening in the morning creates a build up which portrays stress as a never ending problem: “stress levels are rising,” “Cell phone is ringing,” and “Pager is beeping.” The way everything is presented here and the use of “ing” shows there is so much going on at once, and in the present tense. The only thing missing in Tomkins description of the morning is an alarm clock to wake up, giving the impression that people are so used to being up at 6:30am that their bodies awake naturally. When discussing the “nine-to-five” job, Tomkins portrays “teleconferencing” as a negative way for people to bring their work home, and describes the commute from work as a “journey” to show how people had no reason to rush to and from work, and took all the time in the world to get there.
While Tomkins mentions Rob Petrie’s job title, as television scriptwriter, he explains how “it was light when he left work and light when he got home”, to show how simple their day to day activities were, and once it is 5 o’clock, it is time to go home, even in the film industry which is not thought of as a “nine-to-five” career. The way Tomkins has hyphenated the words “nine-to-five”, shows that the time frame was generally thought of as one word and people thought of those working hours as normal. “At work, deadlines loomed, but there was plenty of time to banter around the office typewriter”, explains Tomkins, which shows how much time people had to spare in the work environment. The use of the word “loomed” displays how laid back people of this era were, even if they have a cloud of work over their head, this does not stop them from having a laugh with their co workers, much like the slowness movement that Honore would like to see reinforced. Tomkins describes technology as an “information overload” making it sound unnecessary and too much for people to handle.
Looking at work life today, Tomkins seems to think “the nine-to-five job is extinct”, like it is a species of some kind that people have killed off due to technology “merg[e]ing with our personal lives.” He portrays technology and personal lives like they are two lanes on a highway that are meant to be separate, and the new “24-7 job” like a giant semi truck taking up both lanes at once. This 24-7 way of thinking is perhaps some peoples way to save time, like Honore’s version of skipping pages in a bedtime story. Tomkins discusses a drastic change in the home life when he states, “Laura and Millie no longer have time for a gossip: they are vice-presidents at a bank.” This portrays women in the 60’s as though they have nothing better to do than gossip, and do not qualify as working class, also showing how success driven women of the now have become (209). “You’ve got people retiring early, you’ve got the unemployed, you’ve got other people maybe only peripherally involved in the economy who don’t have this situation at all,” complains Tomkins, which displays these issues as disastrous as these people should be cleaned up immediately.
To continue, Tomkins discusses “stress envy” as though people are jealous of other peoples’ accomplishments, and he describes stress like a pie that everyone wants a piece of in order to succeed. Tomkins shows the gender inequality of the 60’s era when he explains that, “advances in household appliances may have encouraged women to take paying jobs: but as we have already noted, technology did not end household chores.” Tomkins automatically associates “household chores” and “women” as if they belong together, and the women do not take “paying jobs” like the men do. Women are portrayed as maids who must do the entire cleanup, but not need to get paid for the work they accomplish, and therefore are not recognized (211). Honore and Tomkins both agree that slower is better and stress is a rising issue, but Honore discusses his portrayal of the problem in more detail and on a more personal level than Tomkins, which makes him sound more convincing.
Tomkins portrayal of the problems is more general and he does not talk about himself which makes him seem very distant. Honore and Tomkins both feel that the causes of these problems mainly rely on urbanization, consumerism, and technology, Honore’s argument is focussed on the bigger picture, whereas Tomkins discusses each cause specifically. “Start with urbanization,” Honore begins, almost like this is the first step that leads to everything, and the problem starts here. Honore argues that “Cities attract fast people,” as if the cities were there first and people just come to them, when fast people are the ones who make the cities. Also, the cities are described as “giant particle accelerators” as if people are the tiny particles, the small pieces of the city that no one notices until this big machine starts moving things along very quickly. Next, Honore describes consumerism as greedy when he emphasizes “the desire to have more and pack more and more into every moment”, like the moments are a bag people just can not stop filling.
Also, when he uses the word “more” and then “more and more” it gives the impression that consumers are never satisfied with one “more”, once they have one its not enough, now they need two, and people are constantly gaining. French writer, Alexis de Tocqueville describes shopping as an instinct like it is a sense that has become a natural way of thinking. When Honore approaches technology as a cause, he describes it as “an arms race with speed” making it sound like they are violently at war with each other because with every new advance in technology, people get faster too. Honore takes a closer look at the causes and portrays our relationship with time is the “nub of the problem”, just like a nub is the first sign of growth from the root. He describes the way people in the West think as “linear, flying remorselessly from points A to B”, to show the way people here think time is up once it is done, and there is no growth cycle. Whereas, “Eastern cultures—Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu—think of time as circular, cyclical, so things are always coming and going”, says Honore, which shows other cultures believe time does not end, there is a sense of renewal.
Honore’s use of the words “flying remorselessly” to describe people moving from one point to another really shows how uncaring peoples actions can be, and makes the action sound cruel and unstoppable, like there is no freedom of choice. Benjamin Franklin’s famous phrase: “Time is Money”, puts a price on time as if it is something tangible that can be bought, and really dates how long people have considered the value of time. According to Honore, this aphorism “crystallized” the idea that time is linear, making it sound like they are best absorbed together like making juice with crystals and water (205). Furthermore, Honore describes TV as a “black hole of time and energy”, once people are sucked in they can not get out, and then they wonder where there time has gone (208). The first cause Tomkins discusses is technology, which he shows as weight of the problem when he says, “The demands on our time seem to grow even heavier.” Tomkins believes “technology has made work portable,” which is displayed a “commitment” that you must fulfill every hour of the day, when realistically people can just turn technology off if they do not want to be bothered with it.
According to Tomkins, even children are leading a busy life. “Richie’s after-school hours are spent at karate classes and Chinese lesson,” describes a drastic change from kids going outside to play, and wanting to fill every minute of spare time with cultural activities, which differs from Honore’s view that children want to relax (209). Tomkins portrayal of what was expected on technology comes across as negative when he says, “technology, we thought, would make our lives easier,” as if technology is to blame for people not having more leisure time since the invention of machines. He continues to come down on technology and explains that it has “enslaved us” like prisoners, and people do not have a choice to escape from it. When Tomkins introduces “the motor car” as a new way to save time, his use of the word “the” makes the new invention sound singular, and therefore very valuable to those who were lucky to have this luxury. Furthermore he explains how cars did not solve anything since “traffic in cities moves more slowly than it did in the days of the horse-drawn carriage,” although horses take a lot of care and considering how many people live in cities this is not a practical image. Also, he uses the words “more slowly” though he is trying to drag out his argument.
Tomkins describes an “information explosion” as a cause of people’s stress, which displays an image of our brains bursting from being packed in so tightly, and can be related to Honore’s vision of packing more and more memories (210). Tomkins goes on to describe consumerism as “rising prosperity”, which portrays the idea that people continue to gain more and more money and it is becoming even more popular to spend it. “As ever-larger quantities of goods and services are produced, they have to be consumed,” says Tomkins, which shows how he places the blame on manufacturers for tempting people with more goods, and they simply cannot let them go to waste. He also explains how “we struggle to keep up,” like it is a race to buy the most products and be the first to consume (210). Honore’s argument is more persuasive because he has a well rounded view of each cause, whereas Tomkins view weighted mostly on technology. In light of the problems and causes, Honore and Tomkins have come up with solutions to give insight to their arguments, although Honore’s outlook has a personal touch and has more detailed results than Tomkins.
Honore first began to realize he may be too caught up in his own world when he admits “ the moment of truth came when I began reading bedtime stories to my young son”, which sounds like this was his first time reading to his kid, and this was an insight to his reason to change(204). “A lightbulb went on over my head and I began to ask questions”, Honore proclaims, showing that the bright light makes his “moment of clarity” clearer than ever, and the light being above him makes the choice he just made seem higher than all others. Honore explains, “For the first time in living memory didn’t get out my laptop, I didn’t read a magazine, I just sat there and I thought about my life,” which shows how fast and easy it was for him to change once he stopped what he was doing and took a step back. When he describes the “living memory” it is almost like he is saying these are the first real life thoughts he has had, like he has not had control over what he has been thinking in the past (204-5). While discussing the “slowness movement”, Honore shows that people want to change their habits when he explains “there are an increasing number of people actively working to slow things down,” showing that it takes a great deal of effort to become slow(205).
This movement is described as a “catch-all term” which shows the randomness of how common it is becoming in a broad range of people who are suddenly stopping to smell the flowers, and also portraying that you can slow down anything (205-6). “In the United States, people are waking up to the idea that less is more when it comes to work,” Honore explains, which displays that people are excited and suddenly opening their eyes to this whereas they may be sleeping in before and not so concerned. Another one of Honore’s solutions includes “a mediation room and the staff are free to go in anytime they wanted,” which shows having limitations can often lead to stress and if people are “free” to do as they please, they will be more obliged to finish their work(206). In the aspect of medicine, Honore explains how “Healthcare workers are now clawing back slowness to connect with patients rather than treating them like a bag of symptoms,” to show that they would fight to keep their slowness attitude.
Honore also explains how “Medical collages now in the US and elsewhere are putting an emphasis on taking the time to listen to patients, and they are finding that this actually allows people to heal faster,” as though a mental connection is the barrier to patients not healing as fast (206). “Slow-food” is a group dedicated to the “sensible principle that what we eat we should take time over,” and is portrayed as if that is the correct and proper way to eat (206-7). In the schools, abolishing homework is shown as a good thing for children to enjoy life and not be so structured. Honore describes the way children should be children as “relax[ing]” which is odd since most children are not concerned with relaxing; they just want to have fun and play. Finding balance is another way Honore solves his problems. “It’s about striking that middle point between fast and slow”, he says, making that balance sound hard to hit, but once you get it nailed it’s a firm hold (207). Honore portrays his relationship with his son as a “Hollywood ending” which gives the impression that this is his most treasured relationship.
The fact that his son thinks of him as “the best story reader in the world”, shows that Honore has come a long way from skipping pages to actually making the best of story time for his kid (208). Tomkins discusses a broader approach to solving the problems and believes the “perception of the time famine” is a way people can fix their lives, which sounds as if people are starving to change but have not quite grasped which way to do this. Since people constantly seek “instant gratification”, it displays an image that they do not necessarily care about the quality as long as they get it fast and no time is wasted. Tomkins discusses “quality time” as something so precious that if it is wasted, “it’s a sense that you’ve lost something precious.” Time is displayed as something even more valuable than money since you can never get it back once it is gone, which is an aspect both Honore’ and Tomkins can agree on(211). “People are trying to buy time,” Tomkins expresses, “anything that helps streamline our lives is a growth market,” which creates an impression than time in tangible, like Honore discussed.
The way Tomkins uses the word “streamline” shows that people are only concerned with a one way path to success. When describing people’s lives as a growth market, Tomkins creates an imagery where people are stuck in a shopping world where capitilzation is the only concern. Tomkins makes a valid argument when he explains, “it is not more time we need: it is fewer desires,” which shows that people can live simply but they choose not to. He goes on to discuss how “we need to set boundaries for ourselves, or be doomed to mounting despair,” as though people are going out of bounds with their wants and desires, and need to show more discipline if they do not want to be punished. By using the words “doomed” and “mounting despair”
Tomkins shows how people are destroying their own futures and will forever regret their decisions once they have gone too far. Honore shows more interest in finding solutions which makes Tomkins seem less personable and unrealistic since he is not so concerned with problem solving. Overall, the choices people have are their own, and change is a hard when people believe they are truly satisfied. Although Honore and Tomkins can both agree than consumerism is a main cause, Honore displays it like a limited time frame for satisfaction, whereas Tomkins describes the issue as getting the most out of the least time spent. All in all, both Honore and Tomkins display time as linear, and the biggest change people will overcome is to learn to grow like a cycle, whichever path they choose.
Honore, Carl. “In Praise of Slowness”. Readings for English. Betty Anne Buirs. Spring Ed. Surrey, BC: Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 2011. Print. Tomkins, Richard. “Old Father Time Becomes a Terror”. Readings for English. Betty Anne Buirs. Spring Ed. Surrey, BC: Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 2011. Print.