- The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down
Tr. Chi-Young Kim 2017267pp.
Many of us self-proclaimed sophisticated readers will miss out on The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World. Why? It’s been shackled with the self-help moniker. While it is geared toward those who understand an unexamined life is not worth living, realize the self-help part is just a category. This aspect of it is less like Tony Robbins and more like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Haemin Sunim’s book is visually and literarily breathtaking. In it he doesn’t promise readers the ability to reach samadhi (intense yet weightless concentration, a stage before Nirvana). Nor does his pen fill the 267 pages with highfalutin spiritual language. After all, this book got its start by Haemin Sunim’s tweeting much of its aphoristic content.
Let’s stop to consider aphorisms. They’re akin to Aesop’s fables, full of simple truths. Something far easier to suss out than Zen koans. The aphoristic rather than affirmative content sets this book apart from others in the self-help category. There are no promises of guaranteed heaven or even absolute peace in this lifetime. It discusses a variety of examples and ways readers might remember to slow down and notice the daisies (more about daisies later). The anecdotes may be short but they provide huge materials with which we might bridge the gaps of our lives.
One of these succinct life lessons comes from the chapter, “Why Am I So Busy?” In one section, he admits he sometimes wonders if he hasn’t overloaded his own schedule with Buddhist monk and professorial duties. In another section he reminds us that a person’s behavior doesn’t make us mad: it’s we who allow ourselves to become maddened by it. He writes: