Moving At The Speed Of Life

Street - 2 (Photo courtesy of Scott Liddell)

It seems like only yesterday, but it’s been twenty years since I studied for my advanced driving test.

One of the things I had to do was to give a running commentary on what I was doing, what I noticed and what I was were going to do about it:

“We’ve just passed a road-sign which indicated a sharp bend to the right, so I’m going to steer more towards the curb to give me a better view, and so that on-coming cars will have more space [right-hand drive readers, get over it – Editor] . . . The road surface has just changed so I will need to allow more stopping distance as there looks to be less grip and I think I should reduce my speed a little to account for that . . .  The Sun has just come out, but it’s behind me, so I must make allowances for on-coming cars to not be as easily able to see me as it will be shining in their eyes . . .”, and so on.

You have to keep this up for at least five minutes in a built-up area.  It shows that you’re concentrating and that you are appropriately noticing and actioning everything, that is, driving properly.

The instructor was quite pleased, as I recall.  But that wasn’t the end of it for me.  The surprise of what had happened didn’t hit me until a while later.  It might seem a small thing now, but I think it’s relevant as it relates to the Geomantic Way.

What hit me was this:  I had been doing everything right – speed, mirror, road-signs, noticing everything I was supposed to.  Fine.

But there was no way I would have been ‘safe’ (as in ‘best practice’ and legal) and been able to do all those things if I had been moving any faster.  I wouldn’t have had time to notice, think about and respond properly if I had been travelling any quicker.  Let me put it another way:

When I learned to do things properly – to do everything I really needed to – I realised that I must not travel any faster than 30 mph if I was going to be able to do everything I needed to do!  I could not reasonably have processed all that information any faster.

And there was absolutely no way that I could have done everything I was supposed to do and then add into the mix: listening to the radio, changing stations, holding a two-way conversation with a passenger (or hands-free phone), checking the SatNav and plan what to say at the meeting I was driving to!

[Yes, we know that SatNav hadn’t been invented then.  You know what he means! – Ed.]

A second thought stuck me a short time later:  What about everyone else on the road?  Did they have the same advanced training and knowledge?  Were they operating within the speed limit?  Were they safe driving so close to me? Hmmm.

The Speed Of Life

When I decided to commit to the Geomantic Way I could see that the idea of becoming more thoughtful and deliberate would necessitate me slowing the pace of my life somewhat.  But that’s not easy.  Everyone lives a busy life and has lots of distractions.  What exactly would it necessitate?

The driving lesson experience taught me that I could only go at a certain speed if I wanted to be able to do everything I wanted, indeed, needed to do.  And if I do need to slow, by how much?

We can imagine for a moment that life can be lived at four different speeds:

The speed of light – This is the speed where we see and recognise things.  We take in visual images, we react to things electronically as they are transmitted at the speed of light.  It’s a metaphor for the modern fast-paced, wired-in world.

The speed of sound – This is the speed of reacting to what we hear.  Speech, conversations, daily interactions of a slower but still fairly immediate kind.

For most of us, somewhere between these metaphors is the speed we live. That’s not to say that we are never thoughtful or that we only ever react to circumstances in front of us – of course not!  Rather they indicate the speed of the kinds of interactions to which we are most often exposed and are expected to react:  The business world won’t wait; someone is on the phone now; did you hear the news. . . ?

So let’s shift it down a gear to the next level:

The speed of apprehension – This is the speed we think about things.  It’s the speed at which we take things in and make relate to them.  We grasp ideas, we understand what someone is talking about and what is going on makes sense.  And there is a level below this. . .

The speed of understanding – This is the speed at which we can fully make sense of what something means to us – to fit it in to our view of the world and to come to terms with it (or decide we don’t want to come to terms with it!).  It is the speed and time taken to internalise something. We might also think of it as the speed of feeling.

This internalisation or feeling time will vary depending on the nature of the subject matter, how important it is to us, how we see the consequences of not internalising it, our temperament and character and, vitally, how many other calls on our time there are and with what degree of urgency.

I am aware that this is a somewhat simplistic model, so far.  I have deliberately omitted things like our automatic reactions, instincts, habits, presumptions, etc., etc.  These are things that, by and large, we don’t have conscious deliberate choice over, at least not moment-to-moment.  This is why they are set up as shortcuts in our mind in the first place.)

This, then, is the starting point.  How to live more thoughtfully and deliberately while working and living in the modern world?

One approach is to speed things up.  Make our reactions faster, automate to free up time, ruthlessly cut out the unimportant.  Fight to make things a priority. Make the quality time you spend with your children ‘high impact’, for example.  Why not read them a one minute bedtime story when you get in from work?)  [Gawd help us! – Ed.]

It would also be too simplistic to simply say ‘slow down’, ‘down-shift’ or ‘become a monk’.  The question stalls a little with ‘How?’  How to do that when there are so many other things to do and to think about?  Yet, how to be more thoughtful and deliberate any other way?  It is possible to schedule a time of day to do it.  Perhaps some meditation time or other quiet period in the day, but I wonder if there is another way?  I feel that there might be.

I am learning and using a different way.  I don’t know if I will be ultimately successful with it, but I feel it is right for me and I feel better for it so far.  I will continue to practise and to iron out the wrinkles and will let you know what it entails presently – time, as they say, will tell.

(If this post has seemed very insightful to you, then it may be that you are living your life too fast at the moment.  If it’s all seemed a blinding glimpse of the obvious then you may have got more of a grip of time in your life – or are a better judge of good writing.)

In the meantime if you have any thoughts you’d care to share on how you do it, or on this subject in general, then please leave a comment.

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