World Enough & Time
On Creativity and Slowing Down
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World Enough and Time focuses on the positive effect of deliberately simple living on creativity. McEwen juxtaposes religious traditions of both the East and West, and intertwines words of wisdom from writers ranging from Montaigne to Ralph Waldo Emerson and from Virginia Woolf to Jack Kerouac to Adrienne Rich, artists and musicians from John Ruskin to Meredith Monk, and myriad psychologists, linguists, philosophers, and scholars. In so doing, she creates a unique combination of history, spirituality, and practical advice about how to incorporate slowness and its benefits into everyday living. In short, it s what she calls inspiration for the literate reader. According to McEwen, the nonstop emphasis on productivity that is so prevalent in our society is counterproductive for anyone wanting to be creative. She describes a typical response to the question, How are you?regardless of age, race, class, and gender: I'm just so busy. Really, I'm crazy-busy, branding it as a mark of honor. Yet, she continues, When people are asked where they get their best ideas, again and again they answer, In the bathroom, On vacation, Doing nothing. They begin, in other words, by simply being. If we slow down, McEwen asserts, we can appreciate Henry David Thoreau's comment that, A broad margin of leisure is as beautiful in a man's life as in a book. She adds, Thoreau knew too, what contemporary thinkers are just beginning to understand, that the human mind is not some isolated little manikin inside our heads; rather it is fed and nourished by every sight and smell and sound that we encounter, from the movement of the clouds to the shrill of the birds outside our morning window. World Enough and Time extols the benefits of observation, conversation, walking, pausing and dreaming within a literary and artistic framework spanning centuries. World Enough and Time is the result of thirty years of thinking, teaching and writing in the midst of a busy world. Turning to stories of the writers and artists she has studied all these years, McEwen finds that each anecdote is its own parable of truth.