Lessons from the sloth
Johannesburg has an incessant, frenetic energy. In a country that seems to be constantly moving at full throttle, Joburg doesn’t even slow down to corner the bends. No wonder so many of its inhabitants are stressed out, highly tense, coffee swilling, over worked, under-rested maniacs. Enter the sloth, an animal from far away in the jungles and forests of Central and South America that always has a bemused, contented and serene countenance on its adorable little face. We could learn a lot from this composed and easy-going creature. Nothing seems to get him riled up or stressed out as he swings from the treetops or lazes in their branches high above the jungle traffic below.
Dutch jazz singer Ann Burton said: “The point of sloths is to bring a sense of wonder, magic and happiness to all other species. Did you know that every other animal’s favourite animal is the sloth?”
This is the quote used by author Alison Davies to preface her book, Be More Sloth. It’s a guide to getting the hang of living life in the slow lane.
Filled with practical advice, quotes from famous people and a good dose of information about the sloth, not to mention illustrations of sloths in various states of slothdom, the book aims to give readers a method for slowing down, taking stock and getting some perspective.
“The winner of the race isn’t always the one who comes first,” writes Davies, “Rushing through life, we miss so much, and we don’t always perform at our best.
“Over time all the frenzied activity and stress takes its toll, leaving us lost, with all sense of purpose gone. To prevail and prosper, take a steady, yet determined approach and you’ll find life, and all its challenges, flow with ease.”
I know what she means. The demands of life, its competitiveness and the constant urge to keep striving at all costs lest we be left behind can make us feel like we’re on a treadmill increasing in speed and incline and we just can’t get off. Wake up, dress kids, feed them, school run, gym session, rush to work, eat at your desk, juggle meetings, grab a coffee, lift scheme, rush home, cook dinner, do homework, prepare for the next day and start all over again — or some version of this. Anyone relate?
Davies says she discovered her admiration for sloths when they were brought to her attention by her cousin. They’re cute, she admits, with their goofy features and winsome smiles. But she wondered how much they actually got done.
She found that the answer was a helluva lot — admittedly without trying very hard. Davies saw the existence of the sloth as a philosophy for life that she felt the need to share. Here are some of the main tenets:
Slow down, rest to digest, enjoy the moment, practice the art of patience, know your priorities, don’t over commit, focus on single tasking.
Turn things upside down
See things from a new perspective, enjoy your own uniqueness.
Be more intentional
List your superhero skills, unleash your monster and channel it into a physical activity. Live less out of habit and more out of intent, do enough — not too much.
Be kind to yourself and others
Open your heart, be more thoughtful, pay attention to others, give yourself a hug.
Be more positive
Do what you enjoy, accept compliments, smile and find peace.
What Davies also discovered while investigating the sloth was that the animals never stop smiling: “While this is likely because of their facial colouring and their curious-shaped mouths, there is also much for them to smile about,” she writes. “These gentle creature are Zen with a capital Z.”
But more important than any imitation of the sloth’s behaviour, Davies advocates taking the time to slow down and discover yourself, because in this extremely fast-paced world we are losing connection with who we really are.
Be More Sloth is published by Quadrille and is available for R172