Thinking About Thinking - 2019


Messi or Messy?

By Balaji Prasad

“It's hardware that makes a machine fast. It's software that makes a fast machine slow." ~ Craig Bruce

I wish I could be faster. Much faster. If only I could be like one of those anti-missile missiles that launches a split-second after an attack against me, hurtling toward the offending projectile to decisively neutralize it in a mid-air drama of fire and fury.

Am I too slow?

But I am slow. Way too slow. I gaze almost jealously at a video of a lion on the National Geographic Channel thundering down on a frantic wildebeest that is almost equally fleet of foot. Not this time though, as the lion goes mercilessly for the hapless prey's jugular. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes the lion wins. Sometimes, though, the survival instincts of the wildebeest take it just out of reach of those raging claws. They both have one thing in common though, from my perspective: They are both faster than I am. Much faster.

Maybe I am too hard on myself. After all, I am neither a lion nor a wildebeest. I don't resemble them in the slightest. Maybe this thing here is just a different make and model. Can you really compare a little subcompact Kia with a fiery-red rambunctious Ferrari?

If I can't be as fast as a lion, can I at least be as fast as a Lionel? You know the one I'm talking about? The one and only Lionel Messi. I've watched this magic man weave in and out of gaps that he seems to fabricate out of thin air, descending relentlessly upon some harried goalkeeper who plays the poor wildebeest to Messi's fierce lion.

But Lionel Messi is just a man, made of the same kind of stuff as I am, is it not? “What one man can do, another can," it is often said. So can I be a Messi? Or, more practically, could I have been a Messi, if I had applied myself to it as I was growing up? Or, is my thinking all messed up?

Or, am I too fast?

Why does this “speed" thing occupy me so though? Does life somehow become better if I become faster? Maybe not. Maybe it is my mind that is playing tricks on me. Minds do seem to do some strange things! Out of everything that I see between lion and wildebeest, between Messi and the messed-up goalkeeper, I somehow extract the notion of speed as the thing that makes the difference between winner and the won. But surely there are other things in those fast-moving dramas besides fleetness, is there not? What about accuracy? If my anti-missile missile launches a split-second before the split-second it launches at now, but fails, in the process, to arrive at the right answer, I may no longer be around to indulge in the professorial ruminations of the kind I am engaging in right now. If I jumped the gun, so to speak, I would be too fast, and the gun would get me.

Maybe the problem is not that I am slow. Maybe I am too fast, and that is what makes me slow in the overall scheme of things.

Being fast can slow me down!

Perhaps minds move faster than bodies because there is less material – much less material to deal with. The mind can populate its own path with little stepping-stones that pop up here, and pop up there, to take me anywhere that I wish to go, and as fast as I'd like to go. Messi has to deal with the inescapable messiness of the real world with its broad-shouldered fullback defenders and stalwart goalies. However, I am master of the vast empty spaces that stretch out expansively inside the strange universe of my limitless mind, untroubled by thoughts of fierce goalies or itinerant elephants that could trip up a hungry lion on its chase.

If my mind moves faster than reality does, should I not be wary of what my mind tells me? I may want to pay attention to getting it both right and fast. It's more about the result that I get, is it not? Rather than the speed at which I do it. Yes, in some cases, being slow can mean a loss. And, in some cases, being fast can lead to a loss. However, in general, a mind without constraints goes everywhere, and it does seem like a wise thing to slow it down a bit, perhaps even a lot!

Mind the hasty mind

Isn't the mind just a means to an end? Isn't what we do more important than just where the mind is able to go? The spirit can go only so far, if the flesh is weak. So if I practice what I wish to do with more devotion, and think a little less about my thinking, I'd be a bit more like Messi, and a lot less messy.

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Balaji Prasad is an IIT/IIM graduate, a published author, SAT/ACT Online and Offline Coach, interview, resume, and career coach at NewCranium. Contact: 704.746.9779 or balaji.prasad@newcranium.com