I participated recently in a community meeting where someone reminded those present of the concept of “slow knowledge.” Originally coined by David Orr in the 90’s, the basic premise here is that wisdom is gained in inverse proportion to the rate at which information is ingested. In other words, the faster we try to absorb what’s being thrown at us, the less we will be able to be formed by what we know.
As we all experience in one form or another, the amount of content available to us and the rapidity with which that content comes to us has only accelerated since Orr first wrote. The idea of engaging information slowly is countercultural, for sure. And yet, Orr makes the argument that we are made to be more intentional in our learning; more experiential and reflective. He cites nature in support of his argument, and writes, “Except for rare episodes of punctuated equilibrium, evolution seems to work by the slow trial and error testing of small changes. Nature seldom, if ever, bets it all on a single throw of the dice.”
Research certainly shows that rapid content consumption is not our natural way of engaging. We experience the negative effects of speeding up everywhere: shortened attention spans, difficulty sleeping, mood dysregulation, and a host of spiritual challenges that throw our center off-kilter. Trying to process quickly can turn information into a commodity to be used and discarded (or used without consideration of consequences) rather than a tool to deepen understanding.
In our own search for wisdom during a time of constant information bombardment, it might be helpful to remember how Jesus went about His ministry. His time on earth looked very different than ours does, of course. And still, His choices embodied a mindful approach to change and growth. He healed individuals, almost always one-by-one. His teachings were often offered in story form. He went from place to place, centering his activity in community and relationships.
All of this takes time. Being God, there was probably a faster way for Jesus to accomplish His ministry on earth. In love, God in Christ offers us a more deeply connected way—a way of doing that pulls us past short-term knowledge of “how” into the wisdom of exploring “why.” A way of being centered in mindful presence to God’s unfolding revelation.