The False Economy of Speed

As a species, it seems, we are rather entranced by speed. The minimum amount of time spent, for a maximum return.

Every morning at 6:45am I do the calculations.

If I inhale my breakfast I can sleep for an extra fifteen minutes. If I wear jeans I don’t have to shave my legs, so that’s a seven-minute gain. If I take the metro, instead of walking, I’ll save another 20 minutes.

But the snooze after my alarm isn’t good quality sleep, it is fractured and panicked. And the five-minute breakfast sets me up for a day of rushed reactivity. On the metro, I am at the mercy of every other person in my carriage. Personal space is non-existent. Personal hygiene is apparently optional. The time I spend in the metro, versus the equivalent outside is non-comparable.

On the other hand, if I rise with my first alarm I have time to make and drink a big, comforting mug of tea. I can cook an omelette, I can sit down at the table like a civilized human being. I can read a chapter of my book, I can write a few pages, freehand. I can sit and contemplate and notice the leaves thinning on the tree outside my window, or how it is a little darker in the mornings than this time last week. I am conscious, I am present; I notice.

I don’t believe for a second that all of our minutes have the same value.

I believe that life ebbs and flows and that our cities march to an invisible rhythm. Paris’ beat is hectic, and stressful, and it is frighteningly easy to get swept up in her shitstorm of busyness.

I believe that though we cannot halt time, we can cede to its pace.

I’ve never been very good at sitting still, and cross-legged mediation leaves me cold. But I’ve found that by moving, by doing, at a certain, gentle speed I can match the flow of my thoughts, I can live in step with my emotions.

And so I walk.

I write with pen, on paper.

I sit outside and peel oranges with my fingers.

And I run, slow enough to see the world around me, not so fast I block it out.

It is the sync, the glorious, divine alignment of external movement and internal activity that brings the kind of cosmic calm I so seek.

We do not control time. We cannot produce it, or hold it, or keep it or save it.

So my advice, for what it’s worth. Run slowly, write longhand. Be neither paralysed by inertia nor seduced by speed.

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