The myth of slow liv­ing and min­i­mal­ism

Can slow liv­ing be the last des­per­ate hur­rah of print, the so-called dy­ing medium?


Ev­ery form of new media has come to an­nounce that print is dead. It’s the re­cur­ring adage of the decade, what you’d call the selling pro­pa­ganda of the dig­i­tal age. Ev­ery­where, we find ev­i­dence of this timely death: hard copies left un­touched and rot­ting on the shelves, publi­ca­tions scram­bling to dig­i­tal plat­forms so as not to be ren­dered ob­so­lete. The rise of the vir­tual space, with its multi-browser screens, 140-char­ac­ter tweets, and count­less self­ies liked and shared, is the only thing keep­ing pace with how we live—or is it that the In­ter­net was in it­self the prompt for us to live at light­ning speed?

It’s been over a decade of wit­ness­ing the slow death of the printed page. Yet in re­cent years, a cou­ple of in­de­pen­dent publi­ca­tions from abroad—distin­guished by heavy pa­per stock and pages pop­u­lated by bearded men and waif-like women—seem to sug­gest a dif­fer­ent claim. You’d rec­og­nize these in­die ti­tles; they’ve taken the world over with themes of com­mu­nity, na­ture, gath­er­ing, gar­den­ing, and cy­cling. Ten years ago, we would’ve called these top­ics trite; yet what we once shrugged off as mun­dane, we now hold as their great­est merit.

While dig­i­tal has de­clared the death of print, some in­die mag­a­zines have set off a revo­lu­tion, laud­ing ideals that seem to op­pose the dig­i­tal era’s way of life. Hold­ing slow liv­ing as their creed and min­i­mal­ism at their core, on the pages are women pick­ing flow­ers like it’s an art, and com­mu­ni­ties host­ing out­door gath­er­ings like it’s the last spir­i­tual com­mu­nion with the grow­ing world. Tim Mur­phy in The New York Times put it bluntly: these are “things that Laura In­galls Wilder and Tom Sawyer once con­sid­ered chores,” an in­dul­gent, pho­to­driven plunge into “prairie porn.”

Ev­ery­thing now is revered as art, that “the art of breath­ing” might just be a plau­si­ble sub­ject for a wind­ing prose. One thing, how­ever, that these mag­a­zines re­li­giously doc­u­ment is the trend of mak­ing niche and in­die the new norm. There’s a grow­ing fix­a­tion for ev­ery­thing ar­ti­sanal and or­ganic, craft items, sin­gle-ori­gin cho­co­late bars, and farm-to-ta­ble fare, the idea fur­ther ro­man­ti­cized by kitschy vintage la­bels and de­signs, that drink­ing ar­ti­sanal cof­fee might as well be called poetic.

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