A Fast Life

We’re addicted to speed. We want cars that go faster with every new model launched. Automatic guns that discharge hundreds of bullets every second. There are drugs nicknamed ‘Speed’ because they provide an instant high – never mind the crash landing and the burn later. There’s even a new invention that allows you to inhale alcohol to get a high much faster than imbibing a few drinks over hours.

We do this in spite of knowing what the consequences are. At 90 miles per hour, we are effectively seeing only through one eye, since both cannot focus quickly enough at a single point. When several hundred rounds are fired in a second, the ability to cause immense damage goes through the roof. In a war, there may be justification for such a weapon. When one soldier is surrounded by the enemy and needs to have a chance of survival. But in peace time, in a civilian environment, it can only cause unimaginable misery to hundreds of families who lose their loved ones in a senseless instant. As we have been seeing in the news headlines month after month.

Like moths attracted to a burning flame, we are rushing forward into a future that seems bright but is actually a cauldron. We have become so busy that we don’t nurture relationships or find the time to do the things that satisfy us the most. Do we really need that shiny new car that goes from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds? What is missed out is where you can hit that speed. On a remote highway at 4 o clock in the morning – on weekdays, not weekends. Have you noticed that most car commercials are never set in metros? They are conveniently staged far away from civilisation – and traffic. And we buy into that projected fantasy with enthusiastic fervour.

Today’s newspaper headline is indicative of the times – Marital Woes Flood CM Cell. The Chief Minister’s office in Tamil Nadu gets close to 2000 letters, emails and couriers every day. And from couples who have no idea what it means to build a marriage together. Financial independence is reducing their dependence on each other. And any argument can become a flashpoint for a permanent rupture. And to what end – each one trying to justify the origin and the ‘rightness’ of their positions.

There’s a lot to be enjoyed with slowness. Like a quiet dinner broken only by the sounds of chirping crickets. When we curl up with a book – we are actually reading at an average of 200-250 words per minute. Even walking at a moderate intensity, we stride 100 steps a minute. So life in the slow lane is not exactly as sleep-inducing as it is made out to be. It’s just that in comparison to zipping along in a car or playing a shoot-em-up game, they are slower.

Try this the next time you feel stressed and totally drained – allow only limited inputs into your senses. Close your eyes, since visual processing is what takes up the maximum load on your brain. Spend 5 minutes just listening to your breathing in a quiet room. Keep the volume on your radio, or your tablet low, so that it just registers on your ears – and does not pummel your brains. You’ll be surprised at how much more relaxed and ‘alive’ you feel. Without having to pay anyone for the privilege!