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The Slow Revolution is Growing... Fast

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Being Arianna's first pick is a tremendous honor and a huge thrill. It also serves up a delicious irony.

My book is called In Praise of Slowness. Yet the Huffington Post is a fleet-footed pioneer on the fastest communication platform ever devised. Not exactly a natural fit, are they?

Yes, actually they are. And that's because the book's message is more nuanced than the title suggests.

The spark for In Praise of Slowness came when I began reading to my children. Every parent knows that kids like their bedtime stories read at a gentle, meandering pace. But I used to be too fast to slow down with the Brothers Grimm.

I would zoom through the classic fairy tales, skipping lines, paragraphs, whole pages. My version of Snow White had just three dwarves in it. "What happened to Grumpy?" my four-year-old son would ask.

Then one day I caught myself eyeing a collection of One-Minute Bedtime Stories -- think Snow White boiled down to 60 seconds -- and that's when the alarm bells started ringing.

I never bought the one-minute fables. Instead, I set off to investigate whether slowing down was still an option in the modern world. As a journalist, my first soapbox was a series of newspaper articles. But that felt too scrawny, too disposable, too fast for a piece of writing designed to upset the cultural apple cart.

So I turned to a platform that is by its very nature slow: I wrote a book.

In Praise of Slowness chronicles the global trend towards deceleration that has come to be known as the Slow Movement. Don't worry, though: it is not a Luddite rant. I love speed. Going fast can be fun, liberating and productive. The problem is that our hunger for speed, for cramming more and more into less and less time, has gone too far.

These days, we work fast, talk fast, think fast, eat fast, play fast. We even make love in a hurry. A British magazine recently featured the following headline: "Bring Her To Orgasm In 30 Seconds!"

Yet there is a price to pay for living in fast-forward. Our health, diet and relationships suffer. We make mistakes at work. We struggle to relax, to enjoy the moment, even to get a decent night's sleep.

The current recession is a stark reminder that an economy based on fast growth, fast consumption, and fast profits is not sustainable. On the contrary, it is the surest way to burn out the planet and everyone on it. We are now in one of those rare moments in history when everything is up for discussion, when business as usual is no longer an option, when a genuinely fresh start is within reach. You can almost feel the tectonic plates starting to shift.
Exactly one hundred years ago, a restless band of European intellectuals published the Futurist Manifesto, which affirmed "that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its hood adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath...a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace."

Today, with oil running out and the global economy in tatters, that sounds so 20th century. Doing everything in a hurry is clearly nuts. Anyone still in doubt should try attending a speed yoga class or a drive-thru funeral.

That is why the Slow Movement is growing - and fast.

Around the world, 120 official Slow Cities are now putting quality of life ahead of sprawl. Slow Food is a household name and the Slow Sex movement could be next. Slow Travel is booming as people look for ways to savor the journey. A Harvard dean has written an open letter extolling the virtues of doing less and relaxing more. Its title: "Slow Down."

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are now movements for Slow Medicine, Exercise, Parenting, Retail, Design, Education, Blogging, Production, Fashion, Art and Reading.

Even the workplace is warming to the Slow revolution. Companies such as the Boston Consulting Group and KPMG are goosing productivity by encouraging staff to spend less time on the job. Others are imposing speed limits on the information superhighway with email-free days and cellphone blackouts. A senior executive at IBM has launched a Slow Email Movement to encourage us to check our inboxes less. And that's IBM, not an aromatherapy cooperative.

It is no surprise that some of the fastest people are now urging us to put on the brakes. After all, Slow does not mean doing everything at a snail's pace. It means doing things at the right speed -- fast or slow. In other words, you don't have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone and join a commune to slow down. You can be Slow anywhere. Even on the Huffington Post. It's about striking a balance and using time more wisely.

The journey that In Praise of Slowness has made since publication shows how far this message resonates. The book has been translated into more than 30 languages. It appears on reading lists from business schools to yoga retreats. Rabbis, priests and imams have quoted from it in their sermons. A doctor in Sydney, Australia gave my aunt a copy when she was suffering from stress. TV producers even placed a few copies inside the Big Brother house in Argentina to encourage the contestants to talk about more than just cellulite and cosmetic surgery.

Writing the book has certainly changed my life. I travel around the world now talking and writing about the Slow revolution. But I also walk the talk. I have reconnected with my inner tortoise.

This has made me more relaxed, dynamic and creative. I feel closer to my friends and family and more able to enjoy each moment. I'm living my life now instead of rushing through it.

Snow White is certainly a lot more fun with seven dwarves.