Don't just do something, sit there: a book review

10 March 2014

In his book that encompasses many sustainability principles, Wallace Chapman is on a mission to remind us what we already know, but don’t know how to action – slow down.

We’re all guilty of living life in the fast lane. Fast food, the ‘quick fix’… any of these sound familiar?  

Part philosophical, part anecdotal, part research, and never new age, Wallace Chapman’s book, Don’t just do something, sit there: A manifesto for living the slow life is the self-help book that is not a self-help book.

A well-researched and welcome call to inaction in a constantly connected world, this book is about choosing to live consciously by enhancing personal, community and environmental wellbeing.

Wallace Chapman was in his early twenties when he was diagnosed with a rare, debilitating illness. The illness literally caused him to slow down, and set him on the path of what was to become the slow life.

Slow living finds its roots in Italy in the mid-1980s, where the slow-food movement began during a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s at Rome’s Spanish Steps – a response to what people saw as the taking over of local cultures by globalisation.

The “Slow Movement” has since grown to embrace slow living, from food to fashion, to careers and well-being.

5 principles underpin slow living:

  • Taking a ‘holistic view,’ and recognising that life is made up of a balance between social and personal requirements.
  • Elegant sufficiency: valuing quality over quantity; having enough to be fulfilled while avoiding waste and excess.
  • Savouring: fully engaging with your experiences in ways that are enjoyable and life-enhancing.
  • Distinctive and tailored: valuing the bespoke and handcrafted over the mass produced, being authentic in your interpersonal relations.
  • Environmentally sustainable: treading lightly: your environmental impact has consequences for future generations.

Wallace acknowledges that the adjustment to slow living will take time.

“Slow living is no plain sailing, with modern attitudes and social norms providing a real barrier. Stepping away from the consumer lifestyle can be an intimidating challenge,” he writes. 

Fortunately, the book has plenty of lists – a ‘how to’ guide to living a slower life. A profound yet populist take on considering life as we live it, Don’t just do something, sit there reminds us of the life we could, and should be living.

“Don’t just do something, sit there” by Wallace Chapman (2013) is published by Penguin Books (NZ).