IN HIS 1995 NOVEL Slowness, the Czech writer Milan Kundera asks:
Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars? Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands, and clearings, with nature? There is a Czech proverb that describes their easy indolence by a metaphor: “They are gazing at God’s windows.” A person gazing at God’s windows is not bored; he is happy. In our world indolence has turned into having nothing to do, which is a completely different thing: a person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored, is constantly searching for the activity he lacks.
Over the next few months I will be doing more gazing at God’s windows. My posts to this blog may slow down a bit with the summer heat. I have two articles in the works. One is a review of two books on the morality of bombing German civilians in World War two. The other one is about what it’s like to die and come back to life.
If I slow down significantly, it will be because of trail running. This passion always competes with writing for claims on my time, and in Germany’ high green summer, it competes mightily. I have found a race to run in September, 61 kilometers of mountain trail circumnavigating one of the most beautiful alpine rock formations I have ever seen, the Sella Group, in northern Italy (or southern Tyrol, for those who don’t mind overlapping geographic designations).
The training I do for this race, puts me in a frame of mind that Kundera explores in Slowness: “The runner is always present in his body, forever required to think about his blisters, his exhaustion: when he runs, he feels his weight, his age, more conscious than ever of himself and his time of life.”
Slowness, the watchword of the next four months. Here’s to the lost art of gazing at God’s windows.