The Slowness in the Fastness

People often say that I am going all over the place, always traveling somewhere. That is only partly true; I go to Budapest often, and to other places sometimes, but also often need to go nowhere at all. The slow, still days are some of my favorites, the times when, even if I get nothing done, things start to take shape.

But motion and stillness can be found in each other. Last week I went to Zemplén for just one day (overnight); it was a quick trip, but also quiet and peaceful. The picture above shows the beloved Kisdiófa Panzió és Vendéglő, the bed-and-breakfast place where I stayed for the fifth time; here I was returning to it after my evening walk.

And sometimes when, on the surface, I am doing nothing or close to nothing, so much is happening, whether in the world around me or in my head, that it seems that a fast day is being funnelled through a slow seive, a kind of eternity hourglass.

This is true for everyone, I think; the way we describe time and speed are deceptive, since we only partly understand what they are. At one point in Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive (Eleven éjszaka in Hungarian), one of the characters, Doc, starts talking about how one day we will discover that there are time waves, just as there are light and sound waves. This sounds both silly and marvelously wise; there are things about time we don’t know. We often think of time as a construct, a way of measuring motion, velocity, acceleration. But what if it exists outside of our own conception of it, with its own properties? What if time could disintegrate over time? What if time could lose its directionality and duration?

These questions have been raised many times: in physics, poetry, music, and daydreaming. They are not frivolous; they point to the uncertainties surrounding time.

Does this have anything to do with paradoxes of fastness and slowness? Yes and no. What does it mean for a day to be fast or slow? Typically, if a lot happens within it, it is perceived as fast; if a little, then slow. But a day could have an inherent tempo, regardless of what we fill it with, regardless of the motions of the clocks or even the rotation of the planet. Or there could be levels and layers of time, dimensions within time. These possibilities are palpable somehow. Even over morning coffee, I get a shivering intuition that time tingles around us and is yet to be discovered.

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1 Comment

  1. Judith Croke

     /  June 28, 2022

    Lovely pictures again! thank you for posting .


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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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