The idea of slowing down the pace of life is hardly novel: there’s entire industries devoted to explaining to you how their product or service will truly give you the space and time to relax. Vacations, massages, and cable television usually promise us a measure of peace – and yet we come home needing a vacation from our vacation, or unable to have calmed our mind during a massage, and exhausted from watching yet another marathon of a syndicated television series rather than anything that truly engages our interest, from a myriad channels.
What I found unusual in that brief moment in which we see the lady in repose in her friend’s old apartment is not its fiction and improbability (for that’s what it is: just a scene from a movie, with an actress whose best emotion is a projection of serenity).
I think of the possibilities that scene evokes. Does the dream vacation have to be an exhaustive tour of a place’s most famous landmarks, with people I do not know to like? What if it were simply a stretch of days in a place that nurtures and inspires me, instead? (Must it be a pricey all-inclusive? ) If the idea of a stranger’s impersonal, practiced touch heightens my anxiety rather than releasing calm within me, is it what I need? And is the oblivion induced by hours of an endless television series sooth me, really? Music does: wordless, mellifluous. (If I really want dialogue and action, I’ll choose it – with friends, in person.)
Elements of entertainment pervade each of these activities, though – and that implies a certain threshold of engagement on my end. I can’t passively sit there and enjoy; I must research, and understand, and pick apart a nuance until every element is dissected and exposed.
This is important to know: what brings relaxation to most only keeps me primed, at full attention, to absorb and evaluate. I remain in a constant state of tension. I must pursue relief – and paradoxically, my path to it is studied deliberation.