There are some gestures that we are not even aware of making, through force of habit. For example, every morning we wake up, wash, and get dressed and each of these acts are mechanical gestures devised to make things easier, and faster. The same goes for actions done throughout the day, in a succession of possible time-saving, unconscious fragments of life. Moreover, add all the modern devices that aim to speed up our lives, so as to enable us to fill up our spare time with other more or less real needs. However, what is the point of gaining a few extra minutes of the future if we know that we will immediately spend them in the present? Besides, we know that we have lost the pleasure of savouring the present. This post stems from a reflection on the frenetic life of our times that absorbs our hearts and minds, and on the need to keep whole some fragments of slowness where we can refresh ourselves, at least from time to time.
It is a habit of Ugo’s to wake up to a song that greets him. His clock-radio is tuned to his favourite station, which plays a lot of music and few words, and every morning his alarm goes off at 7.30 am. Today the station is playing Take It Easy by the Eagles. This time Ugo is even more convinced that this is a sign of fate. It will be a good day, even if there are a thousand things to do. But, as the song says, take it easy, at least this time. As he gets dressed he is already thinking of what he has to do later, what he has to organize and say. It seems as though the song’s hypnotic refrain with the dragged-out “eeeeeeee” of “easy” has had little effect on him. However, when he starts to button up his shirt, he stops a minute. It is time to stop rushing. The time for buttoning up his shirt can be a time to dedicate to himself. So that morning, for the same reason, he decides to pull on a pair of trousers with buttons instead of a zip, and he substitutes his jacket with a big-buttoned coat. Each button that he does up is like a few extra grains of sand falling into his personal hourglass. He is reminded of a picture that he saw who knows where some days ago in which a smartly dressed man from 1947 has all his buttons indicated in different colours. (http://www.ilpost.it/giacomopapi/2014/09/25/mattina-decisi-contarmi-i-bottoni/). In fact, there were 70 buttons, which Ugo admits is a lot, compared to the number of buttons he has on his clothes. Yet, there is something that makes him envy this man, and not because of the number of buttons, which could even be found on pants at that time, but because it meant that the man could have all that free time to dedicate to himself.
The day seems to have started in this vein, Take It Easy, which is easy if you are at home. Ugo knows that outside there is a universe spinning fast and if you get sucked in there is no way out. A quick coffee at the bar and then to work. In the meantime a glance at the newspaper headlines on his iPad, head lowered over the screen, thumb and index finger touching, expanding, and scrolling constantly. Intangible words that slide by from one frame to another. During all this Ugo has taken two buses, has already made a few calls, walked some way and gone down some corridors. Now he is in his office. While he unfastens his coat he recalls the buttons. He looks up and out through the window. It is a beautiful day, and he had not even noticed this while he was travelling. Take It Easy goes round in his head again. Thus, in the middle of a busy working morning he decides to rediscover the simple pleasures of life, which were in tune with the time dedicated to life and not to technology, to nature and not to business. First of all, he decides to go out and buy a newspaper, that’s right, a real newspaper. Paper almost becomes revolutionary at this point, with its texture, sound and smell, and both hands involved in reading. Ugo had forgotten the little breeze generated when he turns a page, and memories of childhood surface. He can see his father and seems to feel his strong hands when he helped Ugo to blow his nose. When his mother helped him she was more delicate, whereas if his father did this it seemed as if he would break off his nose any minute. However, his nose was really satisfyingly clean after that. Whatever has happened to cotton handkerchiefs? Every day Dad would take a clean one out of his drawer and slip it into his pocket. Who knows, maybe he still does this now, thinks Ugo. Fortunately, these are habits that die hard. In this journey back in time he really feels like lighting up a pipe. In all his frenetic life, his father managed to pass on the pleasure of a slow smoke. While he rummages around in his bag for tobacco, the refrain of Take It Easy appears again in his head. This could be the day to go and get a shave in one of those barbers that have mushroomed in the centre of town. He imagines eyes closed, steam rising from hot towels, various creams and oils, and then the blade in the hand of a person who can read your face and understand what you need. Ugo decides to go and enters the first that he comes across and asks if they have time to do him. There are three barbers working, but they tell him he will have to wait an hour, as the place is full. Ugo thinks this could be the beginning of a new, positive, slow trend. He decides to wait and sits down, opens his newspaper and clenches his unlit pipe between his teeth. He still needs it anyway, even now. Something tickles his nose. He puts down his newspaper, rummages around in his bag in search of a pack of paper tissues which he usually carries around with him, but cannot find it. He ponders and then slips his hand in his trouser pocket, and to his surprise pulls out a clean, cotton handkerchief. Take it easy.