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Live slowly

| Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Read slowly. A book is a treat. Would I wolf down an ice cream cone? Probably — I like ice cream. Would I enjoy it more if I ate it one lick at a time, truly tasting the cold, sugary cream before I swallowed it? Yes.

When normal people eat ice cream, they get a brain-freeze (I get nose-freezes, but that’s a different story). When I read quickly, I get a headache. Food for thought: Rushing good things is not pleasurable, but painful.

If I skim my reading, I don’t let the words swirl around before swallowing them down. I don’t let my eyes feast on the words, so I don’t taste their deep meaning. I finish a fat book in an impressively short time, but I don’t retain any of the nutrients. My belly, my brain, is swollen from ingesting too much too quickly. What did I gain? Another book, another pound, but no joy.

I never skim the milk in my ice cream, so why would I skim my reading? It removes the richest and most enjoyable part, the part that makes ice cream dessert. Without cream, ice cream is just ice. It is a chore to chew on. It crunches loudly, drawing unwanted attention and questions about my iron levels. When I wolf down my ice cream cone, I might as well be chowing down on ice; I waste the ice cream’s tastiness by swallowing the sweetness before it has a chance to dance on my tongue. Sugar is a diva. It likes its stage time.

Great works of literature like their stage time, too. They deserve it. But I crowd them all on stage at once so none of them can be properly seen. I switch from one to the next so quickly that I cannot remember what just happened in the other book. I should pick one book and spend my time enjoying it rather than rushing through five and enjoying none of them.

When I go to Let’s Spoon, I want to try too many flavors. The five-year-old in me insists that five ice cream cones are better than one. Logical me knows: I will not enjoy five ice cream cones. I will finish them off quickly because I am excited for the next one and feel sick rather than happy when they’re finished. I’ll feel disappointed that this treat that was supposed to bring me joy only brought me a stomachache.

Ah, yes, the philosophical moment has arrived, for this is where the life metaphor comes in. When I rush the joys of life, when I try to cram too much in my mouth, brain and schedule at once, I don’t enjoy it. I can’t swallow it. I can’t even breathe.

I am always excited for what’s next. What am I doing next weekend? Next summer? Next semester? What am I doing when I graduate? When I become a mom? When I enter a retirement home?

Oh wait, I haven’t dreamed about that. I don’t want to think that far ahead. I dream about jet-setting careers and weddings but not funerals. I am attracted by posters for casino night, not bingo night in a crocheted sweater.

But I like crocheting. I like reading in a rocking chair. I like baking cookies. Grandmahood may not be so bad.

On the other hand, I do not like having my muscles ache, my mouth drool and my friends die. Funerals are powerful and moving, but I can’t say I like them.

But life is not about likes and dislikes. It is about living through each day, where a day can be defined as 1) a 24-hour period during which the earth makes approximately one rotation; 2) a time that spans from the rising until the setting of the sun, during which one can enjoy breathing, eating ice cream and reading and 3) a gift of time during which you will be given opportunities to do the right rather than the expedient, to play the role God created you to play and to be Christ and love the world.

When my family opens gifts on Christmas day, we do so slowly. Each person opens one gift at a time. Since a large chunk of the presents end up being books, it can take us hours to unwrap each one, fawn over the cover together, read the synopsis aloud and figure out who gets to borrow it next. We’re annoying. But we open gifts slowly because we appreciate and enjoy them, and we want their goodness to last as long as possible.

According to definition (3), time is a gift. The fact that we cannot unwrap it all at once and know what it holds means we get to enjoy it longer. God is a master gift-giver.

So I’ll try to enjoy the slowly-unwrapping time. It’ll be good for me. I’ll try to read slowly, eat my ice-cream slowly, and live slowly. Yes, I wrote this so I would have an excuse for the next time I’m tardy.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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