‘World Enough’ should be savored

James Rosen / McClatchy-Tribune News Service /

Published Dec 9, 2012 at 04:00AM

“World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down” by Christian McEwen (Bauhan Publishing, $22.95)

A fine Christmas gift would be one that beckons you to incorporate the gentler holiday spirit into the rest of the year. Christian McEwen’s remarkable “World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down” demands to be read slowly, savored and then allowed to simmer quietly in the soul.

Having acquired a small army of loyalists, both in the United States and abroad, it has just gone into its third printing. The wonder of this book lies not in its new truths, but rather in its eclectic and quirky re-invention of timeless truths.

While McEwen ties her central focus — “hurry sickness” — to texting, email, the Internet and other digital diseases of our age, her book shows that creative men and women have been rebelling against hyper- accelerated lives for centuries. The most concise summary of “World Enough” comes from Socrates, the ancient philosopher who McEwen notes approvingly warned his fellow Greeks: “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Lauding nature and “childhood’s golden hours,” McEwen often echoes the anti-technological notes of American transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. But what elevates her book, beyond its rich thought and lush writing, is her emphasis that you don’t need to become a hermit fleeing to a cabin on a pond in order to find a more meaningful life.

With her gift for making connections over time across literary, religious and cultural traditions, McEwen insists that pursuing seemingly impractical interests such as reading or walking, daydreaming or gazing, can produce important practical gains.

“Wordsworth was read by Thoreau who was read by John Muir who in turn was read by Theodore Roosevelt, leading him to write the bills that inaugurated the National Park system,” she writes.

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