Just as Paul is engaged in “slow journalism”, we are also trying to carve out a space that encourages slow looking and slow learning. By slow we don’t mean boring or without challenge. Rather, our goal is to encourage students to pause for a while in their hectic schedules to look long and closely at the world around them. As they share their observations and thoughts with each other via the online community, we hope they will be inspired to explore some profound questions about who they are and the lives they are living, as well as how their individual stories fit into much larger ones.
In December, prior to Paul’s departure, we recorded an informal interview with Paul’s wife, Linda Lynch. She spoke eloquently about this aspect of Paul’s walk:
Through Paul, hopefully, large numbers of people will re-investigate and reconsider the value of moving slowly through the world, not only a literal journey such as the one he’s taking but in each one of our individual lives. And that this message could be really taken to heart as something that could be done by all of us in any capacity, that it doesn’t take the level of how Paul’s engaging in his journey but that it’s really all of our journeys…
[Interviewer] What are you hoping young people will take away from the walk?
This is huge to me. It’s very important, I think, that we give young people the opportunity to value moving slowly. It’s one of the biggest challenges in the world right now with so much information flooding everyone so rapidly and the lack of practice of any sort of contemplative movement through the world. So I would love Paul to inspire children and young people that this is a goal, it’s of value. And that it’s as meaningful as having the latest technology at your fingertips and the latest information, that the opposite is also true and incredibly important for a balanced life.
In the spirit of Linda’s comments, we recently asked students to take a slow walk through their own neighborhoods and capture a picture to share with the online learning community. Students’ photos were varied and wonderful, and many students voiced surprise at how this simple exercise in slow journalism helped them to see things with fresh eyes. In their own words:
Hello, As i took a walk in neighborhood today i saw things that i don’t ordinarily see. I was shocked because it seemed like everything about my neighborhood was new to me. I saw many peculiar and interesting things that i would like to share with you.
I went on a local walk to admire my area in which i live in. There were many things which i did not really take much notice of. However those are the things which i have taken pictures of.
When I reached up to take this photo, I began to see all the little details of the tree. From the texture of the tree to the different colours of flowers. We often assume that all cherry blossom trees are the same but they are in fact all unique.
Sometimes learning involves slowing down. Sometimes all we need is to be given time, along with the simplest set of instructions, in order to look closely at the world around us and see new things. We’re delighted that the students seem to agree.
Students won’t be physically walking with Paul as he travels by foot along the path of human migration. However, they have at their disposal the very 21st century phenomenon of social networking tools which allow them to take another kind of journey — with Paul, and with each other. It is our hope that by reading the “slow” observations of other young people who are living in very different contexts, students will come to appreciate new perspectives on the world—and maybe think about their own life journeys in more thoughtful and considered ways.