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Slow Sundays

Recently, I've started going slow on Sundays.

To me, that means leaving my phone turned off in a drawer the entire day and not checking in on social networks.

It also means not really having any productive goals and just going with the flow.

I've noticed that something quite amazing happens.

The passing of time slows down.

And weirdly enough, it's not for a lack of activities I find worth doing.

Maybe it's because I toss away all the tools supposed to save us time.

The more we try to control time, the more stressful life gets.

In Momo, grey men convince the citizens that they have to save time for safekeeping in their time bank. Only for the grey men to smoke the "time flowers" so obtained to elongate their miserable lives of extracting joy from others.

A beautiful tale of how one girl going against the grain ultimately shows people what is really worth living for. It's also a reminder that saving time isn't possible.

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You work faster and faster, and every time you look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder, and you panic, and in the end you're out of breath and have to stop - and still the street stretches away in front of you. That's not the way to do it.

- from Momo by Michael Ende

When I wake up on these Sundays, there's just me and my mind dictating what I'll get up to.

In his aphorisms on life wisdom, Schopenhauer wrote that what's most important in determining one's satisfaction is "what one is"—referring to character and constitution. He ascertains that the highest and longest-lasting joys are the ones of the mind.

A witty person has excellent entertainment in complete solitude with his own thoughts and fantasies.

- Schopenhauer in Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit

As an introvert and avid reader, maybe I have an advantage in going about my day like that.

I definitely am not bored for long stretches. Ironically, I get up to quite a lot—and I'm afraid to admit, I often feel more satisfied afterward than on weekdays.

Lacking the distraction provided by messages and the algorithm, I'm reverting to my favorite offline activities: thinking about random things, reading and reflecting, writing, walking around town, playing guitar, listening to music, and watching movies.

Here is a little insight into what those random thoughts look like...

Last Sunday, I spent probably 3 hours with an arrangement of Bach's Chaconne for guitar.

If you spend so much time on a single piece, naturally, you start contemplating the piece.

And it's not just any Bach piece, either.

Yehudi Menuhin, a grand violinist of the 20th century, believed it to be "the greatest structure for solo violin that exists." In his writings, he wished to be able to listen to it once again for the first time.

Bach's music is profoundly logical and mathematically arranged - yet, or maybe because of that, we hear the divine in it.

It's also why you can play Bach on any instrument (this much is even explained in my Bach for Guitar scorebook intro text)

I think back to the mention of Bach in Eric Emmanuel-Schmitt's novel about Madame Pryinska and the Secret of Chopin.

She referred to him as a "deaf genius in its purest form"

That's not the only time I've encountered Bach recently, though. Another scene that comes to mind is from the movie Tar (an amazing performance by Kate Winslet, btw - she deserved the Oscar for that, in my humble opinion).

I ended up re-watching the scene. It sparked heated debate in the comment section about how this student is refusing to conduct Bach because he was a white cis man and had 20 kids - and Tar is arguing against him for the need to separate artist and art.

That in itself is a topic one can ponder for a long time, but since my focus was on Bach, I did not go down that road - the entire notion of using today's acceptable to cancel artists' who lived centuries ago in completely different realities doesn't sit right with me...

Anyway, the part of the scene that was more of interest to me was when she sat down at the piano and played Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846. It's also the base for Gounods' Ave Maria, in case you wonder why it sounds familiar.

She goes on to explain that Bach poses questions followed by an answer and then another question.

"There's a humility in Bach. He does not pretend to know anything because he knows it is always the question that involves the listener."

Tar

Anyone listening to Bach's Chaconne can hear the grief in it. He composed it right after the death of his wife. I doubt anyone can seriously argue after listening to it that he didn't love her deeply.

I'd describe that entire journey of playing Bach and listening to him on that day as moments of rapture.

Those moments happen to me on slow Sundays much more frequently than on other days.

This weekend, I watched Princess Mononoke (again for the Xth time).

I came to the conclusion that maybe the killing of a God is akin to our loss of meaning and our crisis of knowledge in modernity. I pulled out the notes I had made about Nietzsche and spent a few hours going down this rabbit hole, eventually concluding that I should totally visit the Nietzsche archive in Weimar.

His stance on stoicism resonated with me (I did not resonate with it—another fun article), as I also think that the suffering in my life has benefited me greatly. The fact that I'll be touched and cry over the death of literary characters isn't so much a flaw to get over as an expression of living and feeling fully.

In the scene of Princess Mononoke, where they shoot off the head of the Forest God, they capture the head and hold it trapped. As a reaction, the God's remaining body spreads, destroying everything around it, the beautiful forest turning into a desert of decay.

Amidst the destruction, the initiator of the entire hunt still holds on to the head. Maybe that's a metaphor for how the human ego drives our own demise. He shouts out that they just have to wait for daylight to appear for the entire rampage to be over.

Yet, one cannot be certain of it. It's a mystery how the Gods work.

Mysteries have become rare in our days.

Byung-Chul Han's book Expulsion of the Other describes something similar: our constant need for transparency completely destroys The Other—or the stranger, as in the book by Albert Camus I had to read in French Class.

I did not dig that one up again. The only Camus on my shelf is "The Plague".

Yet, going back to the scene in Mononoke, they eventually release the head, giving it back to God.

The guy who advocated for keeping it responds something along the line of "one cannot win against idiots"

Who is the real idiot, though?

Isn't life better with some mystery left?

Maybe this constant attempt to put everything under the microscope and turn it into tiny bits of data isn't all that inspiring.

Or, as Daniel Barenboim describes it, "the intention to understand ever smaller phenomena better and better: the deadly combination of an ever-increasing knowledge of details that's applied to a constantly-narrowing world." (P. 11 Musik ist alles und alles ist Musik).

Reading more writing from and by musicians, I've realized they are keen observers of our times.

It might just be their ability to do the thing that Momo excelled at: truly listen.

Momo listening (Simona Ceccarelli/Thienemann Verlag)

What little Momo could do like no one else was: listening. This is nothing special,some readers will say, everyone can listen. But this is a mistake. Very few people canreally listen. And the way Momo knew how to listen, it was completely unique. Momo could listen so well that stupid people suddenly had very clever thoughts. Not because she said something or asked what gave the other person such thoughts, no, she just sat there and just listened, with all the attention and all the sympathy.

- from Momo by Michael Ende

Slow Sundays give me the time to listen. To my surroundings and my own thoughts.

They've become a source of great joy.

And they fuel my belief that maybe time isn't a problem to be solved but rather a mystery to be embraced.

The less you aspire to squeeze in, the more you get out of it.

A beautiful paradox.

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#mindfulness#attention#slow
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