A city has its rhythms

They say New York is a city that never sleeps and that Blackpool (England) is a sleepy town. Granted that people are not the same as cities, this still raises some issues about when people ought to sleep and when they might want to rush around not sleeping. It brings to mind the rather peculiar notion that sitting in a call centre in the middle of the night is globalisation and thus inevitable and possibly even progress.

In Italy a few years back some folks actually went out of their way to refuse this kind of progress. As an outgrowth of the Slow Food effort, they developed the Slow Cities movement.

In the UK there’s a network of cities and people interested in these things. Unrelated to the movement there are authors and an entire journal devoted to slower rhythms, the Idler.

In Finland a pamphlet was published on the topic of rushing or rather the techniques of not rushing, earlier this year, Lepppoistamisen Tekniikat, by Timo Kopomaa. By the wonderful Into Publishing house (“into” in Finnish meaning enthusiasm).Kopomaa

I spent a long time trying to come up with a translation for Kopomaa’s favoured word, “leppoisa”. Relaxed, laid-back, unwound, mellow, slow, pleasant, all capture some of its meaning but just don’t do it full justice. And there is a difference between “leppoisa” and “idle”, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Here’s what I’ve come up with. To use the word “leppoisa” somehow implies that you’re talking about some human quality, some way of being in a relationship to something beyond your self. In contrast, idling sounds quite atomistic. Sure, you can idle collectively, but to be idle is a personal quality. And it’s really hard, it seems, to make it sound like that great a quality.

Whereas “leppoisa”, well, even the most successful and hurried chief executive might be described as such. Perhaps not likely though.


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