For the last week I’ve had an unpleasant case of labrynthitis. Not mania brought on by over-exposure to that Bowie film where he walks up and down upside-down staircases, but with similar symptoms: an inner-ear infection which affected my sense of balance and spatial perception. In the beginning, the world span round a full 360 degrees, and I began to fear for my sanity as the doc prescribed a hearty dose of anti-psychotics (which kid your brain into thinking it thinks things are the right way up).
Anyway this is not a post about me being ill (but flowers are welcome at the usual address). One of the more interesting (and frustrating) symptoms was that I slowed… right… down. Literally, every movement, against my will, was in slow-motion. A 10-minute walk around the block took 40 minutes. And even as my poor brain recovered and clarity returned, movements remained stubbornly snail-like.
When you’re going that slow, you notice more. You can’t help but look at things and people with more sensitivity, more compassion – perhaps as a result of your own fragile state. And this can breed creativity. One lunchtime spent sitting in a park watching a bin man do unspeakable things to bins for 45 minutes even led to a script for a short film. Not a Cannes winner maybe, but a script nonetheless.
Now I’m not prone to bouts of sensitivity or compassion that often (I’m more inclined to the ‘move your fat arse’ sort of sentiment on the tube, for example) so this was a novel experience for me. Or at least, a skill I’d forgotten I possessed. As a writer and strategist it is probably this empathy that leads to the most authentic and interesting observations and insights on human behaviour. But how often do we really get the time to slow right down? I don’t mean an afternoon at the gallery or 5 minutes skimming YouTube. I mean properly slow. Take 10 minutes to brush your teeth slow. Sleep for 12 hours and have another nap slow.
It’s funny how ‘slow’ is an affront, or an insult (‘the District line’s so slow this morning…’ ‘He’s a bit slow though isn’t he?’) It should be a virtue – the ability to keep a measured pace when all around you are stuck on fast-forward. Is it Thoreau I’m about to horribly misquote? ‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the beat of the music he hears, however distant or far away.’
I’ve written about the ‘Slow movement’ before, but frankly, not exactly embraced it in my own life. Well, from now on I’m going to live as much of my life as possible in slow-motion. And I expect to outpace the rat race in no time.