Living Madly – Slow TV
In the 1986 John Hughes film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the movie’s main character, high school senior Ferris Bueller, wakes up one morning and decides to skip school. “Life moves pretty fast,” Bueller explains in one of the movie’s opening scenes. “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” He convinces his girlfriend and best friend to join him. When his girlfriend asks him what they’re going to do, Bueller says, “The question isn’t ‘what are we going to do,’ the question is ‘what aren’t we going to do?’ ” The teenagers then proceed to spend their “day off” doing all sorts of cool things, including eating in a fine-dining restaurant, attending a Cubs game and visiting the Art Institute of Chicago.
In truth, life does seem to be moving pretty fast, especially as I get older. By the time this column hits subscriber mailboxes, for example, my daughter will have completed her first year of college, yet it seems like just weeks ago that she graduated from high school. I find myself thinking about “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” a lot lately, mainly about “stopping to look around once in a while,” and what doing so might actually entail.
I discovered that part of the answer has to do with deliberately slowing down. While Ferris and his friends were able to cram several exciting activities into a single day, until recently I was doing so many things (both fun and not so much fun) that appreciating or even paying close attention to anything was becoming a chore — so much so that by the time the weekend arrived, I found myself not wanting to do much of anything. To combat this, I made some changes, beginning with ditching my daily 45-minute-each-way commute and taking a new job within walking distance of my house.
After battling traffic daily on Route 3 — one of the worst commutes in the state —for the better part of a year, walking to work has been a delight, even in below-freezing temperatures. Although I’ve lived in Lowell for years, this leisurely pace of travel has allowed me to discover things I’ve never noticed before, such as the particular shade of red a house is painted, or the intricate patterns of the bricks on some of the buildings downtown. I was able to observe winter changing into spring in an intimate way I haven’t experienced since I was a small girl. All of this, including my reduced stress level and improved health from the increased exercise, has made my mood, and my life, immeasurably better.
Walking as a mode of travel isn’t the only way I’ve found to slow things down. “Slow TV,” a series of programs produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. that feature unedited, uninterrupted real-time recordings, such as the seven-hour “Train Ride: Bergen to Oslo” (footage from a camera mounted on top of the train) and “Salmon Fishing,” seven-plus hours of footage of people fishing in Norway’s Gaula River (there’s even an underwater “salmon cam”), have recently become popular in our house. My favorite is the nearly nine-hour “National Knitting Night,” in which a gaggle of cheerful Norwegian knitters attempt to break the world record time for creating a sweater from sheep-shearing to finished product.
Available on Netflix in the U.S., “Slow TV” has been quite popular in Norway since its debut in 2009. While I don’t watch it every day, or even watch an episode from beginning to end, the calming scenery and contented people on these shows provide a nice break from the 24-hour news cycle, not to mention a welcome opportunity to exhale, relax and let my mind wander.
“Slow TV” and commuting to work on foot might seem pretty boring to a guy like Ferris Bueller (the thing he covets most in the movie is a car), but that’s the beauty of life. No matter your age, profession or where you live, there’s always something worth slowing down to see.