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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Slow TV

There is a new media phenomenon sweeping across the globe. Or should I say, it is inching its way across the globe. It is called Slow TV.

slow tv train
The Bergen to Oslo train.

What is Slow TV? It is an uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event in real time from start to finish. It gives new meaning to the phrase “reality television.” The phenomenon began in Norway in 2009 when the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (public broadcasting) came up with the idea to broadcast the complete seven hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. (You can watch the entire thing on Youtube.)

The program was such a hit, the broadcasting company was up for an even greater challenge: to broadcast live the entire 134 hour voyage of the ship, the MS Nordorge from Bergen to Kirkenes. (This show, which was aired in June 2011, is also on Youtube. Since many of us probably can’t afford to watch the 5 1/2 days version, a 37 minute time-lapse version is available.)

The ship voyage proved to be extremely popular. Thousands of people lined the shores to watch and wave as the ship sailed by. Some held signs and banners. Even the Queen of Norway came out and waved to the ship. Others got into their boats and followed the ship for a while, hoping (I guess) for their 15 minutes of fame. An estimated 1 million Norwegians watched at least part of the program. What makes that number even more amazing is that the entire population of Norway is only 5 million!

The beautiful MS Nordorge making its 134 hour voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes.
The beautiful MS Nordorge making its 134 hour voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes.

Norway has produced other Slow TV shows. You can watch 12 hours of firewood burning or 18 hours of salmon fishing. (Warning: it takes 3 hours for the first fish to bite!) One of my favorites is 13 hours of speed knitting! Another show still in the planning stages will be called “A Day in the Life of a Snail.”

These productions go against all the conventional “rules” of TV programming. They have no popular stars, but just ordinary people doing ordinary things. There’s no dramatic or witty dialogue, only the natural sounds of the particular event. The programs employ no fancy shots, dramatic editing, or enhancing music. Although the programs use multiple cameras and often capture breathtaking Norwegian countryside, there is no editing and no music. Whatever happens is what you get.

Slow TV is catching on. The British Broadcasting Company has produced its own shows. One takes the viewer on a

Do you ever just sit and watch firewood burning?
Do you ever just sit and watch firewood burning?

slow boat ride through a beautiful canal. Following the airing, one commentator remarked, “I think that after the show the blood pressure of millions of British viewers went down!” Slow TV is coming to the United States too. One of the production executives said, that this type of TV show “allows you to watch and just sit back and relax…It allows you to breathe.”

Slow TV fascinates me. I think it might be filling an innate need for contemplation, a need that is often squelched by our fast-paced and hectic society. I keep thinking that when Jesus said, “Behold the lilies of the field…the birds of the air,” he was doing more than suggesting we look at them briefly from time to time. I think he was really saying we should make time to behold them, to contemplate them. The Jesuit theologian Walter Burghart described contemplation as a “long, loving look at the real.” If we slow down and behold the world in which we are privileged to live, we will become more aware of its sacredness—whether we’re beholding firewood burning or a lowly snail going about its snail business. Such contemplation can’t help but lead to a greater love of the Source of All Being, all Blessings: our Amazing Creator God.

Here are two videos you might be interested in. The first is a 6 1/2 minute video that includes ambient music, bird sounds, and pictures of mushrooms on the forest floor. Nothing more. I offer it for your contemplation…

The second video is an 18 minute explanation of Slow TV by Thomas Hellum. It shows scenes from the train ride and the ship voyage and gives information on how the programs were produced. The video is both informative and (I think) very funny! (Click cc for subtitles if you wish.)


What do you think of Slow TV?

If you watched the mushroom video, what did you think? How did you feel?

In your life, do you feel the need for contemplation, that “long, loving look at the real”? If so, how do you fill this need?

ps: Thank you for your prayers and wishes for my Golden Jubilee. I had a wonderful time celebrating! I’ll write more later…


9 Responses

  1. I watched most of the Slow TV TED talk. Thought it was great! It connected us to each other.

    I try to meditate 20 minutes each day. The long, look at the real will be my mantra today.


  2. It’s funny but I have been doing a sort of slow TV of my own. Every morning when I first wake up I turn off my airconditioning and open all my windows. Upon finishing my prayers I lay on my bed and just listen only to the sounds of all the birds outside. It is a time of slowing down and taking in the beautiful sounds of nature. I feel at peace and one with God.

  3. Sr. Melannie: Thank you for this! I have become tired of “talking heads” that say nothing useful, and often not kind. The Norwegian film took me to Norway, a country I probably will never visit but now have seen….live! I have a Christmas tape which incorporates nature’s sounds in the music (no vocals). I love the peace and serenity that comes with meditation. Thank you again. Mary

  4. Good Morning,

    I think of my adult children on weekday mornings and pray that they find a moment or two at work to slow down and be grateful. Retirement has been a great gift of time for me, I wish that gift for all of my sisters and brothers in Christ.

  5. Guess I am so hyper, couldn’t watch the programs too long. The slow movement made me dizzy, unable to go to Omni Max productions. Other videos you included in your articles, I enjoyed. Thank you.

  6. The mushroom video was amazing–I’ve never seen so many varieties of mushrooms.

    Contemplation is difficult for me. My mind is too busy. I’m going to work on slowing down. I do like to be in my flower garden, watering and listening to the birds first thing in the mornings.

  7. Today’s “Sunflower Seeds” post is awesome, Sr. Melannie. It has been my introduction to the concept of “Slow TV,” which I find very appealing. The mushroom video led me into a contemplative mode. I enjoyed being still and allowing my soul to savour the wonders of Creation as portrayed by the myriad species of mushrooms and the beauty of the birdsong. I took time to watch the Slow TV video … although I don’t usually stay with anything on the internet for more than 10 minutes or so. I feel renewed … and nourished. Thank you! Blessings.

  8. Sister Melannie: This is such a timely blog. About 2 years ago I stopped watching regular TV/news and such and turned my radio only to a Christian station which had no commercials. I have instead been watching uninterrupted PBS series/movies, etc. I felt imprisoned by the “hype” of fast-moving commercials, etc. I also noticed that my stress level was always high and couldn’t understand the reasons until I began to slow down my thinking. I have a consistent and very sought-after prayer life which keeps me grounded. In today’s world, it is difficult to just “be.” One must make a conscious effort to be still. Thank you so much for this post. It made my day and also lets me know I am not alone in my thinking and vision of the world. Blessings, Michelle

  9. Hello,

    I found your site when reading up on Slow TV, it’s great to see this type of film getting so much interesting coverage.

    I’m an Editor and Producer for a film company called Summer Isle Films in Suffolk (the one in England) and we have just launched our first Slow TV program. Being based in a rural county we wanted to create a Slow film that was focussed on our sublime surroundings. And so we created ‘The Plough’.

    I was wondering if your readers might be interested in our Slow TV project? You can find out more about ‘The Plough’ our website here –

    Please feel free to embed the YouTube clip on your blog!

    Thanks in advance,

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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