My Pal Rich Lisney runs a blog called The Bimbler, carried away by his enthusiasm I have been looking at slow-venturing, which, after excursions into zenventuring, looks slightly promising. Of course slowness is far from being the be all and end all, it is merely the alibi for taking a broader, more considered look at a thing. Adventures where you use cars and powerboats or make speed attempts up hills or down dales are all very well…but…they can get a bit boring. It’s the boredom paradox. One teacher I had in Japan made us do aikido moves again and again until you were screaming with boredom, and then, like breaking through a wall, you suddenly comprehended a whole world of subtlety you’d been missing. In an instant it all became fascinating, as if one had suddenly put a higher power lens on the microscope. But fast, initially exciting things soon pall- the first 30 seconds I spent in a jet boat was…wow!!!...and then I was bored: thumpety thumpety thump it went hitting all those predictable waves.
Going from boring to fascinating – long distance walking can offer moments of intense boredom before flashing into mesmerising oneness and everything=interestingness (this new film ‘Wild’ captures this); I think it has something to do with getting into a rhythm. I think we understand the importance of rhythm and alignment but because these things often result in greater speed we think it is speed itself that is the key. You see the appeal of slowness in martial arts where an old master will have far ‘faster’ reactions than a young whippersnapper simply because he is looking further ahead- he ‘aint faster, he’s just seen it coming much earlier because he isn't flustered. A friend of mine once interviewed Michael Schumacher whilst Schumacher was driving- what surprised and interested him was how far ahead along the road this race driver was looking. Most of us are staring at the tarmac a few feet in front of our bonnet – which means things take us by surprise, and require instant reactions.
Thought for the day: don’t act faster, just look further ahead.
Back to slow-venturing. Slow-venturing doesn’t mean being tyrannised by slowness for the sake of it, it means USING initial slow conditions to find a rhythm that suits whatever you are doing, and thus getting ‘outside’ time into the world of ‘flow’ experience.
Here’s a slow-venture: going up stream instead of downstream. Paddling a canoe downstream is actually pretty dull. Unless there are lots of rapids, caves in the cliffs to explore or other side attractions it’s a bit like sitting in the back of the car. But going upstream is a real challenge. And because you’re fighting every inch of the way you get your nose rubbed in the river. You get to know that river better than anyone else. There is however a few ways going downstream is a slow-venture and that is when the river is too shallow for the boat, or too narrow; it slows you down and makes everything more interesting.
To create a slow-venture think of a normal adventure and slow it right down. Take a really heavy rucksack and only walk five miles a day…turn your canoe into a bicycle trailer, load it up and tow it behind your bike. Naturally ultra-fast ‘alpine style’ assaults on mountains are seen as purer than a siege involving miles of fixed rope, ice screws and bolts, and yet part of me admires that ponderous way of climbing. When de Saussure first climbed Mont Blanc he had 18 assorted guides and porters, several ladders and a host of poles, staves and ropes for crossing crevasses and other obstacles.
I like running- pretty slowly I might add- but the idea of running a long distance walk appeals. So surely that means going fast? But, in a way, running when you are in rhythm seems slower than walking in a rush. And of course: increased amount of time for dawdling at tea shops, pubs and standing stones etc.
In a rush: this doesn't mean moving fast, or making split second decisions, it is simply feeling ragged and roughshod ridden and generally stressed out. We all need to be stretched- and slowing down can actually stretch us more by making us look more closely at a thing. But no one needs the strain of being in a rush.