The illusion of speed is the belief that it saves time. It looks simple at first sight: finish something in two hours instead of three, gain an hour. It’s an abstract calculation, though, done as if each hour of the day were like an hour on the clock, absolutely equal.
But haste and speed accelerate time, which passes more quickly, and two hours of hurry shorten a day. Every minute is torn apart by being segmented, stuffed to bursting. You can pile a mountain of things into an hour. Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer, because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breathe, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints. Hurrying means doing several things at once, and quickly: this, then that; and then something else. When you hurry, time is filled to bursting, like a badly-arranged drawer in which you have stuffed different things without any attempt at order.
— Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking
Somewhere along the way, I became a voracious reader. I mean, I’d always been a dedicated reader since childhood. But sometime in the last decade or so, I started devouring books like they were hot dogs on Coney Island on the Fourth of July. Perhaps not coincidentally, that’s about when I started going to library sales many times a year. Many times, I’d walk into a sale with an Augustinian prayer in mind: “Lord, grant me restraint—but oooh, this book looks interesting…”
But I haven’t been to any sales since December, and there likely won’t be any for the foreseeable future, so I’ve rediscovered the joy of re-reading this spring. I actually started doing that before the pandemic made a necessity out of a virtue, but I appreciate the enforced constraints. I look at some of these titles and realize with a start that it’s been years since I first read them and found them engrossing; how absurd is it that I haven’t picked them up again since? How many other forgettable books did I waste my time on between now and then? Gros’s book was one of the best ones I read last year, so it’s a pleasure to have it return to my attention, like the spring perennials. He’s right; the days seem longer, and activities have more room to breathe. I can read a bit during the day, and spend an hour strolling around the yard in the gloaming, casually thinking, silently observing; going nowhere, doing nothing in particular, but somehow never feeling left behind.