The Dalai Lama Doesn’t Drive, nor did Kingsley Amis

Something I heard Paul Ekman say during a Litquake panel was that the reason we can respond automatically, when we're driving and someone cuts into our lane, is that our ancestors had to be able to react when a large feral cat jumped in their direction. That's why we have instantaneous reactions that aren't under our control. Working with the Dalai Lama and other eminent Buddhists, Eklam has shown that, as a result of a lifetime's training, these people can control these physiological reactions – one consequence Ekman mentioned is that “none of them drive.”

There's also a saying that poets don't drive. I believe Martin Amis wrote that his father -- being a poet as well as a novelist -- didn't drive, whereas he himself -- being a novelist but not a poet -- did. Between the Dalai Lama and Kingsley Amis lie a fairly wide range of temperaments... could it be that many people have careers that impede their driving ability?

Personally I don't even find novel-writing to be terribly compatible with driving. Part of it's that the days when I have to do a lot of driving aren't the days when I have access to uninterrupted blocks of time, but there's more to it than that. Some vocations, stock trader Jim Cramer's for example, are about making instantaneous decisions, giving orders, exploding with anger at the person who failed to act quickly enough on your instructions... This seems intrinsically more compatible with having to drive than does a daily regimen of constantly reediting stuff...

When writing, I want to be in a state of mind somewhat closer to the Dalai Lama's than to Jim Cramer's. Actually, I might even prefer being a passenger in the Dalai Lama's car to letting Jim Cramer drive, but that probably just proves something's wrong with me. What do you think – is it possible that serious writing slows down your reflexes?

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