Life stories Science stories


Do people not take their time? Is it weird when some people do? It’s not like driving extra slow because it’s Sunday (please, never drive extra slow), it’s about taking your time to pause on a hike because there’s a clearing and you get to peek at a sunset or a flock of birds flying in formation. Anyone who’s a walking regular will tell you it’s just what you do, and why you go on hikes. It’s not to get from point A to point B or to get instagram content; you go because of all the little things you can steal from it. A great photo of vibrant green moss on a strange rock, two rabbits caught in the act of making bunny babies, cold sandwiches and muddy boots. And then you take even more time the following days to mend your sore muscles from the rocks you climbed and clean your boots from all the dirt and pebbles they collected. Time is precious and it’s not wasted if at the end of the day your heartrate is soft and your sleep balmy. It’s not an easy task and like anything else, it takes loads of practice and could benefit from mimicking others who’ve already gotten their zen.

Take Alan for example. Alan is a male arboreal tree sloth always hugging one tree or another in a Peruvian tropical forest and he travels an astounding 0.27km/h, amounting to a total of 37 metres in a single day. For scale, a lion has a top speed of 80km/h and can cover almost 5000 metres in a day. Suffice to say it’s lucky for Alan they don’t have lions in equatorial flora.

Sloths get down to ground level only to poop. No one knows why.

The first Alans were mythical creatures, very difficult to observe and study because of their suspended disposition and location. Eighteenth century scientists were either fascinated or appalled by them. Famously, one of them said that sloths “are the lowest term of existence in the order of animals with flesh and blood. One more defect would have made their existence impossible.” Harsh innit? Also, deeply deluted. Alan’s “badly terminated” legs give him a strong grip and make him an everlasting pendulum and his “slowness, stupidity… and even habitual sadness” are a result of the slowest metabolism in non-hibernating mammals, something which grants him the advantage of feeding on nutrientless forest bits that no one else wants. People have said this before; it took millions and millions of years of evolution to perfect the sloth. So by all means, make fun of the slowpoke that Alan is, but make no mistake; he is perfectly perfect and living his best life.

A three-toed sloth or ai (Bradypus tridactylus). Created 1825.

Being a sloth is all about doing the things you really want to do, at your own time and pace. It could be that you end up moving real slow and everything else gets speedy and blurry, but true sloth mode affords zero f****s. The only thing that matters is moving and living comfortably in your own skin, oblivious to the outside world. Rediscovering a jacket that used to get worn on the daily back in the 80s and dusting it off, despite its neon triangles and holey pockets. Buying new skates and falling over and over again in plain view while trying to overcome long-time imbalance issues. Giving into adhd and insisting on the same comfort meal every day for the past week, although mom calls every other day with the current menu. If it feels right for you, it must be right for you. At least for a while.

Here’s the trap: comfortable habits are hard to break and remaining in a constant placid state of mind is also not healthy. Life happens in the in-between moments, in impulsive decisions and miscalculated risks. Hanging upside down from the same tree, munching on leaves, twigs and buds for years on end, may have worked for Alan, but we’re not arboreal weirdos. Humankind has taken a different evolutionary trajectory than the sloth, one of conscientious existence, that’s taken us from inventing fire to investing in non-fungible tokens (ok not all branches of our evolutionary history have been a remarkable success). Sloth mode is not about turning off our humanity and giving into uninterrupted complacency; it’s recognising the choice that feels best at any given time and place, whether it’s high or low risk, in short bursts or over a longer feelgood period.

Slothlike is not a resolution for the new year. It’s a hike.

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