Live Slowly! says Jürgen Moltmann

God-for-a-Secular-SocietyI’m categorizing this one under “words to live by”! Jürgen Moltmann is not only an incredibly profound thinker and one of my favorite theologians: he is often an insightful and inspiring individual to learn life from. Here, Moltmann’s simple advice to modern men and women is this: Slow down!

It’s a rather long quote so I’ll let you read it yourself; though I must say I find this advice personally challenging, as I’m sure we can all learn to live slowly. In the age of instant social media interactions and fast paced everything it’s important we learn to live slowly! Moltmann is helpful here in showing us how we can be free to live slow lives and to stop trying to “play God” with our fast-paced living.

I hope you enjoy this quote as much as I do! This comes from Moltmann’s book God for Secular Society. (LINK) I enjoyed the book tremendously, and while it’s not necessarily a theological book there were many great passages in which Moltmann applies his theology to modern society. If you enjoy this quote, I’d recommend it!

“Modern men and women are ‘always on the go’, so wherever they are, they are always pressed for time. … Never before did human beings have as much free time as they have today, and never did they have so little time. Time has become ‘precious’ too, because ‘time is money’. The world offers us endless possibilities, but our life-span is brief. Consequently many people fall into a panic in case they should miss out on something, and they try to step up their pace of living. The utopia of overcoming space and time by way of high-speed trains, faxes and E-mail, Internet and videos, is a modern utopia. Everywhere we want to ‘keep up’ with things—the phrase is significant in itself. We want to be omnipresent in space and simultaneous in time. That is our new God-complex.

“The modern revved-up human is fed by McDonald’s, poor devil. He has plenty of experiences, but actually experiences none of them because he wants to have seen everything and to hold on to it on slides or videos; but he doesn’t take it in or assimilate any of it. He has contacts in plenty but no relationships, because he ‘can’t stay’, but is always in a hurry. He gulps down his fast food, standing up if possible, because he is incapable of enjoying anything any more; for to enjoy something takes time, and time is what one doesn’t have. Modern men and women have no time, because they are always out to ‘save’ time. Because we can’t prolong our lives to any appreciable degree, we have to hurry in order to ‘get as much as possible out of life’. Modern men and women ‘take their own lives’ in the double sense of the phrase: by snatching at life, they kill it. The brevity of time is not diminished one single second by accelerated life. On the contrary, it is by being afraid of not getting one’s share and missing out on something that one falls short, and misses out on everything. 

“We tourists have been everywhere but have got nowhere. There is always only enough time for a flying visit. The more we travel, and the more rapidly we chase after time, the more meagre the spoils. Everywhere we are just in transit. The person who lives more and more rapidly so as to miss nothing lives more and more superficially, and misses the depths of experience life offers. In that person’s world, everything is possible, but very little is real.

It is probably our suppressed fear of death which makes us so greedy for life. Our individualized awareness tells us: ‘Death is the finish. You can’t hold on to anything, and you can’t take it with you.’ The unconscious fear of death shows itself in the stepped-up haste for living. In traditional societies, individuals felt themselves to be members of a larger whole: the family, life simply as such, or the cosmos. When the individual dies, the wider context in which he or she participated lives on. But modern individualized consciousness knows only itself, relates everything to itself, and therefore believes that death is the end of everything.

“Perhaps we can no longer go back to the old sense of belonging to a greater whole which endures when we disappear. But we can surrender our finite and limited life to the eternal divine life and receive our life from that. This is what happens when we experience communion with God in faith. To experience the presence of the eternal God brings our temporal life as if into an ocean which surrounds us and buoys us up when we swim in it. In this way the divine presence surrounds us from every side, as Psalm 139 says, like a wide space for living which even finite death cannot restrict. In this divine presence we can affirm our limited life and accept its limits. We will then become serene and relaxed, and will begin to live slowly and with delight.

It is only the person who lives slowly who gets more out of life. It is only the person who eats and drinks slowly who eats and drinks with enjoyment. Slow food—slow life! Sten Nadolny’s book The Discovery of Slowness (ET 1981) rightly became a bestseller, and a comfort for harrassed modern minds and hearts. Only the very rich can squander time. Those who are assured of eternal life have time in plenty. Then we linger in the moment, and lay ourselves open to the intensive experience of life. …

“It is only the suppressed fear of death that makes us so hurried. The experienced nearness of death, by contrast, teaches us to live every moment with full intensity as an eternal moment. Our senses are sharpened in an undreamed-of way. We see colours, hear sounds, taste and feel as never before. The experience of death which we permit ourselves makes us wise for life and wise in our dealings with time. The hope of resurrection to which we hold fast opens up a wide horizon beyond death, so that we can leave ourselves time to live.1

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  1. Moltmann, J. (1999). God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology (pp. 88–91). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

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