Seeing fast and slow

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has figured out that we can think through a problem one of two ways: fast or slow.  Most of us choose the first way.  It’s the knee-jerk, immediate thought, often the result of previous experience, and even prejudice, that we employ.  Sometimes it’s the right approach, but often it’s not, as his book Thinking, Fast and Slow makes clear.

The same applies to seeing: we can see fast or slow.  The other day I looked up from the kitchen table and noticed a dead fly, lying prone on the window frame.  Fast-seeing would have been: dead fly, unsightly, dispose of.  It’s a superficial response, and it has its place, especially if danger threatens or we have to act quickly.

But there’s a deeper way to see: the slow way.  It’s the way I often adopt, and it’s rich and takes you to the heart of the mystery of life.  Instead of making the instant definition of ‘dead fly’, I looked at the marvellous thing (which was no longer a fly), and wondered at its magnificent wings as they caught the sunlight, the complex eyes that were no longer seeing, the delicate and fragile legs.

This thing was once alive, but now it was dead.  How could such a complex thing have existed?  What is this extraordinary life that flows through me, you and the wonderful thing on the window frame?  Is this life ‘mine’ or ‘yours’ or is it that we are all different expressions of this same force?

Seeing slow is one of the essential tools of Time-Light; when we see slow, there is just seeing, and no seer.  And it takes us to a stillness that is beyond words, but where the truth lies; in that great stillness we know.

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