I’m gonna keep this update short, because I’m trying to spend most of the weekend away from my computer. But I’m so excited to have passed this first major milestone on the way to the book existing in the world! And - once I’ve had a bit of a breather - I am looking forward to hearing what my editors think, and spending the summer passing the draft back and forth to get it into shape.
One of the last things I did before I sent the draft off yesterday was run a series of searches on the text, to find verbal tics and tired phrases that I might have repeated over and over. I pared back some of-courses and in-other-wordses, but I also found some more specific cliches. Like: Time slowed down. Or, Time stood still.
Here’s the thing about those phrases, though. They’re accurate. Here’s the late Oliver Sacks, in his posthumously published essay collection, The River of Consciousness
“There have always been anecdotal accounts of people’s perception of time when they are suddenly threatened with mortal danger, but the first systematic study was undertaken in 1892 by the Swiss geologist Albert Heim; he explored the mental states of thirty subjects who had survived falls in the Alps. ‘Mental activity became enormous, rising to a hundred-fold velocity,’ Heim noted. ‘Time became greatly expanded… In many cases there followed a sudden review of the individual’s entire past.’ In this situation, he wrote, there was ‘no anxiety’ but rather ‘profound acceptance.’
Almost a century later, in the 1970s, Russell Noyes and Roy Kletti, of the University of Iowa, exhumed and translated Heim’s study and went on to collect and analyze more than two hundred accounts of such experiences. Most of their subjects, like Heim’s, described an increased speed of thought and an apparent slowing of time during what they thought to be their last moments.
A race-car driver who was thrown thirty feet into the air in a crash said, ‘It seemed like the whole thing took forever. Everything was in slow motion, and it seemed to me like I was a player on a stage and could see myself tumbling over and over…as though I sat in the stands and saw it all happening…but I was not frightened.’ Another driver, cresting a hill at high speed and finding himself a hundred feet from a train which he was sure would kill him, observed, ‘As the train went by, I saw the engineer’s face. It was like a movie run slowly, so that the frames progress with a jerky motion. That was how I saw his face.’”