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Fast and slow

Fast and slow

by Wolf Pascoe on July 30, 2012

Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity. — Albert Einstein

Relativity—as in, my sense of time—scares me. It scares me when I am lying down, and when I am rising up. It scares me when I am sitting in my house, and when I am walking by the way. It scares me when I am turning on my computer, and when I am turning it off.

I have this nifty little program called Instapaper, which I’m happy to say is a hero of a lovely essay, The Slow Web, by Jack Cheng.

What is the slow web?

A feeling of ease, says Jack Cheng. Not helpful? Alrighty then, what is the fast web?

Ah, Jack Cheng has no trouble describing that one:

It’s the out of control web. The oh my god there’s so much stuff and I can’t possibly keep up web. It’s the spend two dozen times a day checking web. The in one end out the other web. The web designed to appeal to the basest of our intellectual palettes, the salt, sugar and fat of online content web. . . . Click me. Like me. Tweet me. Share me. The Fast Web demands that you do things and do them now. The Fast Web is a cruel wonderland of shiny shiny things.




Just Add Father, I hope, is slow web. But I was talking about Instapaper.

Instapaper is an icon in my browser’s bookmark bar that says, “Read Later.” I click it whenever I run across a web page I’d like to peruse at leisure.

Instapaper sends the information to a special Wolf Pascoe folder in the cloud. Later, I can flop in a chair with my iPad and read the article—magic. I can take as long as I like with the article because it’s the only thing occupying me.

The genius of Instapaper is not that it sends things into special folders with your name on them in the cloud. It’s genius is to transport something out of real time into an extended moment.

Slow web puts you in charge, and moves according to your own rhythm, says Jack Cheng. Fast web takes place in real time.




“Real time” should be a good thing. Who doesn’t want to be engaged, one second per second, in real time? But the Internet changed all that. It can’t be consumed in real time, because there’s too much Internet. It contains too much raw sewage. I want to be in real time when I’m doing the things I want, but not when I’m doing things that others want me to do.

So when I’m on the fast Internet, I’m living a life of quiet desperation. And, if I’m not very, very careful, I take desperation with me even when I turn the Internet off.

Trouble comes when I’m with Nick. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could treat him just like the Internet. How many things will he want me to do NOW that I don’t want to do?

I need a “Read Later” button with him, so I can deal with Nick stuff in an extended moment. But sometimes kids can’t wait–the whole thing is to be with them in real time. I have to surrender to fast Nick.

It’s all so confusing. Is the Internet training me to be a bad father?




A blog I love, Super-protective Factor, teaches parenting by connection. “How do you support your depressed teenager?” it asked last week:

My thought was about teen boys in general and how just BEING WITH them is so important. Being still, quiet, not saying much, just being a presence is essential. Slowing it all down, having no agenda.

Lately I have been doing a lot of just going in my son’s (12yo) room, after knocking lightly on the door. I really don’t say anything but “hey”, and then make it obvious by my actions that I haven’t a care in the world but to be closer to him. I don’t try to make eye contact or ask him what he’s doing. I’m just sort of content to have been let in the room. Sit on the bed, lean my back against the wall.

And then I wait.

He’ll keep reading or drawing , or whatever he’s doing, mostly acting as if I’m not really there. I think his limbic system is all the while checking me out . . .

Like, are you REALLY going to hang with me? Or are you going to bail when you get bored?

Somewhere in this is an act of will, an internal Instapaper turning real time into extended moments.

I don’t want to bail on Nick. I want real time with him to be my extended moment.

“Dada,” said Nick this morning, “Will you go into the water with me at the beach today?”

Wasn’t that where I lost my glasses a few weeks ago?

Yes. Yes I will. Yes.



Self-help: no outcomes, no news, no hurry




Superprotective Factor Blog



Extended moments, anyone? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kyle Bradford July 30, 2012 at 8:10 am

“basest of our intellectual palettes” — BRILLIANT phraseology.

The internet has distorted life, giving it to us in small virtual doses and it’s making us sicker by the day. We become virtual peeping Tom’s watching somebody undressing via their feed.

And we haven’t even begun to learn the impact it’s having on our children.


Wolf Pascoe July 30, 2012 at 10:34 am



BigLittleWolf July 31, 2012 at 8:17 am

Just Add Father is definitely “slow web,” and it’s a pleasure, at least in part due to that. We can even feel how the pacing slows down. Reading becomes more sensual, more enjoyable.

As for that sense of ease, I admit that I feel it rarely and I imagine that the jammed-up pace of “everything” and the scope of “everythingness” is part of that. It’s one dollop nature, two dollops circumstances, and the reason for the composition seems unimportant, when caught in the vortex of its effects on time – and the difficulty appreciating the now, separate from the weight of what awaits.


Wolf Pascoe July 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm

My general plan is always to start slow, and then to ease off.


Tom July 31, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I love the slow web concept and the word “Dada” which my daughter used to call me. If I’m really lucky (and can slow down enough), she’ll call me that again.


Wolf Pascoe July 31, 2012 at 7:03 pm

They call you that on your way up, and they call you that on your way down.


Barbara July 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Slow web is where I was last week, with nothing to do but be near my kids and family. Alas, as soon as I stepped through the door back home, I entered fast web again. I love the idea of Instapaper. Thanks for the tip. (And Just Add Father is definitely slow web!)


Wolf Pascoe July 31, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Another program I like is Reeder, which makes your Google RSS feed more presentable. More on Reeder and RSS if you don’t know about it: What’s an RSS reader anyway?


Pamela August 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

I need instapaper. I agree – sometimes being with my kids feels slow. I am learning to love it and I know I’ll be devastated when they lose it.


Wolf Pascoe August 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Devastated, yes. That’s why I want to be enlightened immediately.


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