Monday, 13 July 2009
Wild traffic, white noise
Attended a speeding awareness course at Cambridge today. Four hours in a classroom with sixteen others of roughly my age and a kindly advanced driving tutor at the front, distinctly earning her money. What had I done? Back in the wild days of my youth I drove fast. I was a young male of the species and had accidents of a minor kind without killing or even hurting anyone very much, without seriously damaging myself, except on one occasion when I arrived at a university interview with my hand covered in blood after some knock that resulted in broken glass. I was applying for a place and was late because of the accident. They must have been impressed by my sang froid, or at any rate my sang, because they offered me a place in Psychology which I then didn't take.
Over the last few years I have generally been a law-abiding citizen-driver and the only two times I have sped was when I wasn't aware of the speed limit and thought I was within in. I haven't had an accident for decades. Nevertheless I was speeding, late middle-aged, doddery speeding, but speeding nonetheless, hence the re-education, some of which was genuinely enlightening. A good thing.
But it is interesting how we behave when in a class. There we are, striving to give the good answers, all the while knowing that the truth is something else, something not necessarily wicked, nevertheless something else, something more complicated, something a little wilder, less certain. We are asked to observe scenes of potential hazard. We do our best to observe and enumerate, and we do all right by and large, saying the right things, but it is not what happens in real life. In real life our minds wander and we act on automatic pilot much of the time. We are thinking creatures, hence we think. If anything ever makes me dangerous it is thinking.
So I go on thinking all the way home from the centre which is some fifty miles away, chiefly aware that life is not all consciousness, that much of it is wild traffic and white noise; that consciousness bears roughly the same relation to the world out there as language does to its referents. But I'm keeping to thirty on the urban roads and to seventy on the big dual carriageway and am still alive.