As discussed in my previous post about exploring slow living, today I want to explore the first principle, namely that of living by my values. It’s surprisingly difficult to hone in on the essential values that I hold dearest. It’s easy to produce a laundry list of values, but much harder to boil them down to what I consider absolutely fundamental, which are those that motivate my actions and guide me through life. People’s personal values vary; none are more important than others, as these are all subjective choices. Personal values can change over time, so I want to focus on a handful that have been with me for most of my life. Part of slow living is learning to focus on what you consider to be truly important; having a comprehensive list of personal values can actually defeat the purpose, as the point is to be focused and intentional. This process is not easy and, for someone who is as prone to analysis as I am, it can become somewhat akin to falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, so I relied more on my intuition and focused on the first values that popped into my head, in a similar process to word association. I won’t go into the process in any detail, but the values below are what emerged as my top contenders, which I list in alphabetical order:
- Religion (or Faith)
Beauty: I’ve always been drawn to beauty for as long as I can remember. While beauty can manifest itself in several ways, I have always been drawn to visual and aural forms of beauty, such as art, sculptures, architecture, and music. I’m a reserved person and not prone to wearing my heart on my sleeve, but beautiful objects, music, and so forth, can move me to tears, even if they are not necessarily visible to others. I take such pleasure in finding beautiful objects: they don’t need to be famous works of art, sometimes a simple and elegant candlestick can make me smile. I’m usually at my happiest when I’m in a gallery surrounded by beautiful objects, or in a magnificent church (this is related to my Religion value). I will strive to take time every day to revel in beauty and to immerse myself in it, even if it’s just for a moment, as a bulwark against a sometimes ugly world.
Kindness: Kindness is the sincere and voluntary use of one’s time, talent, and resources to better the lives of others, one’s own life, and the world through genuine acts of love, compassion, generosity, and service. This is a value to which I strive but of which I often fall short. Learning to be kinder to others, as well as to myself, is something that I need to work hard on, particularly since my desire for competency, a deep-rooted aspect of my personality, can make me intolerant or impatient.
Knowledge: This is perhaps not a surprising value for someone who has pursued an academic career. There is an irony, however, to having a career where knowledge can be pursued more as a means to an end, rather than for its own sake. By this I mean that there is a complusion in my profession to translate that knowledge into a tangible outcome, such as a journal publication. I find that this pursuit can sometimes serve to commodify knowledge, if you will, and rather takes the fun out of it. I want to place a greater emphasis on knowledge for the sake of knowledge, without a specific end goal in mind, career advancement, or the like.
Religion: Religion has been a part of my life since I was a baby. I was educated in a religious school until university, and have been actively involved in various churches for most of my life. I consider myself to be a religious person, in that I adhere to the beliefs (most, but not all) of a particular religion. My faith has always presented me with an interesting conundrum, as it often battles against my very rational and logical brain. I do know that my religion provides me with a sense of purpose, guides my values, and provides a sense of perspective on what is truly important. It’s an area where I profit immensly when I give it the time and attention it deserves.
Responsibility: A former colleague once told me “you suffer from a surfeit of responsibility.” I’ve always placed a very high value on personal responsibility; it can drive me to be a better person, but it can also lead to harmful behaviours, such as taking on too much, driving myself too hard, and having unreasonable expectations of others. It’s likely a word that could be etched on my tombstone. My slow living approach to responsibility is to use it to help me focus on monitoring my own behaviours and well-being, while to be forgiving of both myself and others if we fall short of my (sometimes unreasonable) expectations.