What is the point of life if it goes so fast and you don’t have enough time to reflect and learn the lessons from it? If you have so many things going on and everything is a blur, a deep-seated irony is that it feels like nothing has happened at all.

A great illustration of this notion would the Shinkansen – a bullet train service in Japan. Say you wanted to travel from one part of the country to another, such as from Tokyo to Osaka. By car, it would be 502km – requiring 6 hours.

Due to the fast-paced nature of the Japanese lifestyle, these trains can travel at immensely fast speeds – with a top of 320km/h! This would allow you to complete the trip in 2 hours and 27 minutes, cutting the travel time by a whopping three and a half hours – about a 60% reduction in travel time!

From a productivity standpoint, this is fantastic – imagine what you could do with that extra 3 and a half hours! However, is there anything that we lose in that three and a half hours on the trip to get there? If we took the car, we could have visited numerous towns that are available. We could have enjoyed the picturesque countryside, soaking in the quaint scenery that is so iconic of rural Japan. In a bullet train, we could get to our destination faster. However, we may not enjoy the journey as much – everything outside the windows of the train would appear to be just a diffused blur.

I have noticed this same phenomenon when comparing car rides to bike rides. When a place is relatively close, I’d much rather take the bike than the car. When I drive, I don’t notice things as I would when riding a bike. On top of getting much-needed exercise in our fast-paced world, cycling hits two birds with one stone, as you can go somewhere WHILE exercising. On top of this, the surroundings are much more beautiful. You can feel the fresh wind blowing against your face, with the ambient chirping of birds amongst the gentle rustling of the leaves of Australian gumtrees. Moreover, there are also random spontaneous episodes that happen along the ride, wherein exploring the nooks and crannies of the neighbourhood you’ll find novel gems. Once I saw a flock of goats grazing along the highway in a completely urban area – I thought that was the weirdest/coolest thing. On occasion, you can feel the warmth of a beautiful sunset upon your cheeks. All these little experiences amalgamate together to make a very memorable, as well as reflective bike ride.

Blowing bike riding to large proportions, Chris Broad on his famous YouTube channel “Abroad in Japan” did a 29 video series titled “Journey Across Japan”. Encompassing 2,000 km of cycling, he documented the entire process with exquisite production quality. When watching this series, the spontaneity that arose from cycling brought so much novelty to the series. When they had made it to the checkpoint for the day, there was a sense of accomplishment that they had managed to get there. This entire series is probably my favourite of all his videos, as it brought so much character and originality to the vast tourism themed videos that inundate YouTube.

Taking this idea metaphorically of traversing through life as a journey, what I have found as a good rule of thumb is that if I don’t have the time to reflect and journal as well as eventually output something on the blog, then life is either probably too busy or I’m not being efficient enough/spending my time wisely. I’ve found that when one reflects and reviews on life, it provides us with the opportunity to analyse our recent past, which consequently allows us to make plans to improve ourselves for the future. When life feels like a blur akin to the scenery when you look out the Shinkansen, we lose this valuable opportunity. Cramming extra activities does not mean much as we don’t absorb the lessons from all the activities that span our week. Too much novelty can be a bad thing, and too much monotony as well. As with most things in life, there is a goldilocks zone, a balanced sweet spot to be found.

Therefore, we should let our experiences marinate the way we view the world. This does not limit to tangible experiences, but of the psychological as well – of which many of these experiences can be found in books. In applying this notion when life becomes a blur, what I’ve realised is that there is not much point in racing through books if you don’t give it the chance to marinate your conscience, to internalise its existence within your mind to the point it becomes a part of your sub-conscious. There are no shortcuts to this because there is always the tradeoff of depth when you skim through anything. Learning is a long arduous process of reflection that takes time and much work. Sure you might save a few hours by taking the bullet train of life – however, we sacrifice depth in exchange for a breadth of experience. And often, it is the depth of experience that leads to paradigm shifts in our lives.

Hence, the activity of re-reading books that we think we have not entirely grasped the crux of its meaning would be a great exercise. Or even reading books that we have read a long time ago, because our character, perspective, or even maturity would have changed by then.

As such, it isn’t a great idea to race through life, where it is to one’s own benefit to stop and smell the roses. There is not much point in living if we do not enjoy the life that God has given us.

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV

So, it’s not a bad idea to reflect towards a marinated life.