12.21.2010

OVERDRIVING YOUR HEADLIGHTS

Whoa. Last night, as I was walking down Broadway, I watched as a taxi careened around a corner and caught a bicycle messenger in its headlights. The driver smashed on his brakes; the bicyclist swerved off. No one was hurt. Pure luck.


I've been pondering this phrase for the last few weeks: Overdriving your headlights. I learned it years ago, in high school driver's ed, but only began reconsidering it recently. We speed down the road, in a rush to get someplace, too fast to pay any attention to the scenery streaking past--and too fast to respond to danger in our path in enough time to avert disaster. That's overdriving the headlights.

I've been thinking about how we do that in our lives--never mind our cars. We're speeding along--say, in a relationship, or in a career, or even reading a book!--because we want to know how things are going to turn out, where we are ending up, will everything work out? That heightens anxiety. And of course, because of that, we're unable to manuever over all of the speed bumps that inevitably, reliably come our way. We crash.

It is so hard to simply Stay Here Now. Enjoy the road. Move with care. Linger over the scenery. Pick up passengers. Get lost, wander, play, and trust that whatever the destination, the trip will be as wonderful as you let it be. Let it be. Sound familiar? This is a good season to consider the perils of overdriving our headlights. Quite apart from not being able to see danger in time to respond gracefully and safely--we're bound to miss too much by streaking through the journey.

27 comments:

Ashling said...

Excellent advice...and very timely.

columnist said...

I was giddy with your photography, but also with your observations of life.

hkpowerstudio said...

I've never heard this term before so thanks for introducing me to it and what it means. Much to ponder. I seem to have much trouble with streaking through life but I guess I'm not alone. I'm trying to gracefully be aware, enjoy and accept each moment.

Thea said...

oh, i have been there, on the brink of crash and burn, when it was too late to take it all back but still waving my arms trying to catch myself. good advice. i've learned not to panic when i get lost. i usually find the best places to be. The secret is to drive slowly :)

Bruce Barone said...

My fiance always says the speed limits are they for a reason; engineers and others have determined what is safe for us.

If we follow these rules, we see more. We live.

I will leave you with a favorite quote:

"Absolute attention is prayer." Simone Weil

P.S. And you can't have absolute attention, see, if you are over driving your headlights.

karensandburg said...

yes, drive slowly and be slow and present. in my world, present is slow. i feel that when i am absentmindedly, but deeply enjoying a moment, it is slow and present, but those muscles in my core -- my solar plexus -- have to be relaxed. when i was living in the 'big city' (Atlanta), my center was often tense and ready for combat -- either it was the traffic or aggression in some form. here in boulder, the layers of tension quickly fell away. we all drive slowly here...

Cristina said...

as much as I do enjoy your (lovely, not annoying) sound wisdom & calmness, now and the I do wonder: do you DEEPLY feel what you write or do you - you too! - have to somehow impose yourself this enviable attitude?!

mary said...

I have crashed and burned more than once.....so lately I have not rushed to judgment/decisions/planning (so much). I'm not doing the big production for Christmas Eve with huge amounts of gourmet food which I love to cook (but I never see anybody). The California rain is making me stay inside and not driving; so I'm blissfully making Christmas presents and not worrying about sales. Christmas Eve we're are having appetizers, paella, salad, good wine, desserts (all make ahead). And lots of babies and kids. And this feels really good. I love your post of today--so true.

britta said...

For the past year and a half, I lived in panic mode. Re-finding myself after I lost my best friend in one of the most horrific ways. I was crashing and burning daily. And I really was believing the fact that life is somewhat about every person for themselves. I started to look at life in a new perspective and learned to appreciate things like the sun being out and to be happy for that! I don't believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that for every negative comes a positive. And now I am trying to live one day at a time. What I have seen in the 22 years of life I would never wish on my worst enemy. Thank you for sharing this post. It speaks to me in so many other ways than I imagined!

Anonymous said...

I thought you lived in Rhodes I?

pve design said...

I got a ticket....last weekend in my haste....I think I needed this post prior...it would have slowed me down. I really never even realized I was going too fast. Tisk Tisk!
pve

NicNacManiac said...

Thank you for this...it is perfect and we all need to slow down and take it all in and just BE for the moment!!
Happy Winter Solstice!!

c said...

Such a simple concept - BE.

So hard to accomplish.

We live in such a frantic society, at such a frenetic pace, everything must be "right now", e-mail (even) is so slow, texting is the thing ... I feel for the younger generations. We (older ones) are leaving a pitiful legacy in so many respects.

Sorry! this comment is really a "downer" - your entry D is so much more uplifting!
(which is why I "check in" regularly).

:-)
Thanks!

c said...

One more thing:

I'm hoping you read comments and find the time to answer my foolish question:

Have you ever read The Little Prince? One of my favorite child/grown-up book of all time. And I'm amazed at how many americans have never heard of it!

William said...

One of the best suggestions from an essay or book I read on the 'slow movement' (can't remember the source) in a discussion on the societal impact of our high-speed internet/email/twitter 'culture of busyness' and how our brains are being wired to no longer take the time to ruminate on a thought or idea, is this:

"Don't just do something, sit there"

Dona M said...

Just attempting the CAUTION speaks to me of one of the beautiful signs of aging. Not only does one's body let us know that things are different now, the accumulation within the mind and spirit, experience tells us we all end up in the same place, no one get's out alive......Enjoy today, Dona M

karensandburg said...

william -- i love that.

amy good house said...

This reminds me - today my friend at work saw Valentines Day decorations, cards, chocolates, etc on sale in Penn Station in NYC. It's days before Christmas and people are already rushing frantically towards the next "thing". Sad that we can't enjoy the here and now :(

Dominique said...

Valentine's Day? You must be kidding! Talk about overdriving the headlights....Christina, I do feel deeply what I write. BUT it takes me a while to get there. I get frantic, I lose my place, I feel lost. I'm aware that I'm sliding.

And then something catches my eye, or some phrase trips into my thoughts, and I start to wonder, and ponder, and then I sit down to write. It is constant discipline. I have to tell myself to just sit there, as Wm. says. There was a time I didn't even think change was possible. Then my brother told me that it was important to stop negative thinking, because it changed the way your brain worked, literally, changes you could chart on scans. That was the first time I realized it was possible to get your mind in a rut--and possible to get it out. Control, change were possible; discipline was useful. Writing helps me work my way out of the busy brain noise.

THE LITTLE PRINCE has long been one of my favorite books. I have not reread it in a while. I ought to, but my memories of it are so vivid; there were a few books I read as a child that struck a deep chord. In fact, I think I'll write about that in another post. Thanks!

c said...

:-)

One of my copies (I have 3, one in french, 1 in english, 1 in spanish) is so thoroughly highlighted I cannot lend it to anyone else. Every so often I re-read it and find new meanings. Even now.

Looking forward to your (eventual) post. Thank YOU, for what you add to my life.

Cristina said...

thank you for your honest answer!
may you and your family have a wonderful Christmas time and, above all, a gorgeous new year!

William said...

Dominique,

Excellent comment on your work process.

The other day a friend of mine commented to me, "I admire your work discipline, I wish I could be more that way". I replied back, "I wish I could be more that way, too". To stay focused and be productive requires, as you put it, constant discipline - constant and intense discipline. To become distracted is so damn easy - to sit and focus and work is not easy. Constant discipline.

I want to suggest a book on writing, it might be the best book on writing I have ever read:

'IF YOU WANT TO WRITE' by Brenda Ueland

and more for your reading list:

'SELF RELIANCE' by Emerson

and for some artisitic inspiration the Hopper show at the Whitney is excellent - it's mostly Hopper but others included, too

Anonymous said...

Dear Dominique, Honestly, for me personally, no truer post was ever written. When I was younger I had to be going, or doing, every second. Looking back now I think it made me feel important. Maybe I was even addicted, could not miss one thing, or one event. Maybe for some people it is part of being young. Glad it is all behind me now. Realized eventually once there, say at an event, I would rather have been at home. Live and learn. My life used to be about 'big things, now it's about the little things' Much, much better quality of life. Hugs, Joyce

Anonymous said...

ps Also, thank you so being so honest, and thank too for being such plus to my life. Hugs, Joyce

Emom said...

Thank you! happy holidays to you! smiles...

Tonya said...

I love this post. As the mother of four, I make sure that my kids get "unplugged" time each day. All this busyness can lead to the feelings of instant gratification, which is partly why our economy is struggling. I picked up The Little Prince at a used book sales last fall - I know nothing about it except that it is a classic. Thanks for the reminder to read it!

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this wonderful blog...what peace it gave me. Used to go to The Museum of Natural History when I was a child in New York, now I live in Tennessee...so far. The words are life giving, Dominique, and the photos prove life exists in moments.