Slow Computing

Last week, I read this new and inspiring testimonial: The Joy Of Slow Computing

When I use open source software, I am no longer a consumer, but a member of a user/developers community. If my Yosemite has a bug, I can complain to the multi billion dollar company Apple, that probably doesn’t care for me as an individual. Not so with Zotero, Inkscape, Firefox or any other great open source creation; I can visit the friendly virtual village, for help or even bug fixes, that are tailored to my needs.

As Eric Raymond has written in The Cathedral And The Bazaar, this is a fundamental shift in experiencing software.

Picture of arduino electronics

Photo courtecy of uosɐɾ ɹnɥʇɹɐɔɯ.

See also: Are You A Consumer or Community Player?

Drive Your Car Mindfully

Since a couple of weeks, I keep a maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 miles/h) on every freeway, even when the speed limit is much higher. Most of the cars pass me, I keep to the right. I set my car on cruise control and there’s a large stretch of free road ahead of me. I feel relaxed and unhurried.

Other cars join me to form a lazy caravan. We are the evangelists of the slow driving movement. It’s mindful traveling.

My car, a Toyota hybrid, uses much less petrol. I feel rested when I arrive.

Dancing around the world

Last Sunday, at the Holland Festival, I attended (although not participated) a dance masterclass of the famous dancer Damian Woetzel. He explained some interesting things about what he found that was ‘great’ about dance and ballet performers.

Damian ended his masterclass by showing us this little film:

Maybe you know it, since it was published in 2008, but to me this film shows that there are people all over the world who just want to have fun. It moved me and brought a big smile to my face.

Where the hell is matt?

A personal comment on Seneca

After reading the first part of the article of Tim Ferriss about the letter of Seneca to Paulinus entitled “On the Shortness of Life”, I decided to read the entire Seneca text. At a quiet Sunday morning, I sat in the garden and started to read the English translation. I had some trouble with the old school English, so I turned to the Dutch translation, since this is my native language.

The short summary of the letter from Seneca is: do not waste your time. Seneca in this text does not explain extensively which activities would not constitute time-wasting. In stead, he devotes a large number of paragraphs to explain why he thinks a great number of people are spending too much time on chasing money, power, fame or easy sensual pleasure.

I have to make an income, so I work. Would Seneca consider this a senseless activity? To me, it is a necessity.

Seneca argues that if you do not give in to distractions, your life seems longer. I agree with this completely. It is what my zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls: “Achieving more by doing less”. For me, this means: do not waste too much time with zapping the television or chatting (as I did) with a number of people on the Internet. What I find remarkable is that if you are zapping TV channels or senselessly surfing the Internet, time seems to fly by and at the end of the evening, I used to ask myself: “where did the time go?”

Picture courtesy of Uwe Eischens

Once you stop with things like that, other, more meaningful opportunities open.

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it.

In the letter of Seneca, the author stresses that you should not let others claim your time too much. The example that Tim Ferriss gives is that if somebody would ask you to give him $ 100,-, you would kindly decline, but when somebody invites you to a 2 hour meeting that has no interest to you personally, you would be much more reluctant to decline.

This is definitely something I can relate to. As a young IT specialist, I was known within my family and friends as the guy they could call if they had some problem with their computer. This has cost me a lot of time back then, and I also found out that people would take my help largely for granted. Then one day, I decided that I would stop playing the free help desk, helping nobody anymore, save a few close relatives. I also like the T-shirt that says: “No, I will not fix your computer!” and I think that if you are a physician, people would also ask you medical details during birthday parties or receptions and you would also have to maintain the “no help-policy” for your own protection.

But what, according to Seneca, constitutes the beneficial ways to spend your time? I know from Googling about his work, that this would be a life in reflection, practicing philosophy and reading books of wisdom. This is what I miss in this letter, because here, Seneca does not write much about why these activities are good for you.

As a practicing Buddhist, I believe in mindfulness (being attentive to what you do), concentration (focus on one thing) and insight (that comes when you practice mindfulness and concentration). Focus on the essentials, daily meditation and keeping your balance give a feeling of calmness and having more patience with others. I do not know if this has any resemblance to the ideal activities in Seneca’s mind, though!

Day of rest great way to recharge

Day of rest
Photo courtisy of Nicolas Valentin

Tina Su from the blog Think Simple Now has written a great post about how to organise a day of – what I would call mindfulness to regain focus and spend quality time with yourself. By scheduling a clarity day like Tina suggests, you can ‘reconnect with your inner self’.

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a Spiritual Day or a Clarity Day, in which you spend the whole day disconnected from the information world and the many distractions of modern life, and start to connect within yourself.

If this sounds too mystical, don’t get caught up with the words, they are just linguistic symbols to communicate ideas. When you really get into such a day, it can become a source of great bliss and understanding of one’s self. During these times, we can experience tremendous personal growth, peace, and satisfaction.

Find clarity in one day

Meditate at work

Too busy to meditate? Why not start a meditation group in your workplace? Put an announcement on the intranet and find a quiet place to sit together in a small group once a week (Wednesday) before lunch.

Meditation at work

Read more about this idea on the site Sit at Work.

Reclaim Time for Yourself


One of my favourite blogs has a good article by Shane Magee about how to maximize time for yourself by creatively adjusting your daily schedule.

Sometimes it seems like your life just isn’t your own anymore – work, family, and other obligations swallow it up to such an extent that we often look back and wonder where all the time went! No wonder, then, that many of us feel as if life is just passing us by, and we can do no more than helplessly watch. However, with these tips and a little willpower, you can create time to center yourself and face the world with renewed enthusiasm.

Five Hints to Reclaim Time for Yourself

Benefits of Daily Meditation

Tejvan Pettinger of Pick the Brain has written an article about the benefits of meditation that I found was a good read.

Daily Meditation

In a modern world that values activity, achievements and results, it is perhaps surprising that more people are turning to meditation. For all the activity of modern society, many still feel a fundamental need for silence, inner peace, and a moment of reflection. Meditation can reduce stress and help us relax; but, it can also give us a lot more. These are some of the benefits that daily meditation can give us

Read the full article

How to Live a Life of Contentment

Relax, take your time

There is a great post on about creating a simpler, more content life for yourself. It has a lot of links to previous posts on Zenhabits that fit right to the context.

At the end of the day, we’re often exhausted and stressed out from the grind and the chaos and the busy-ness of the day. We don’t have time for what’s important to us, for what we really want to be doing, for spending time with loved ones, for doing things we’re passionate about.

And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to live a simpler life, one where you enjoy each activity, where you are present in everything (or most things) you do, where you are content rather than rushing to finish things.

Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment | zen habits

Women In Art

I have have found an excellent video that shows 500 years of art history: