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Hitting the road

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A while ago a put together a series of pages depicting the protagonist involved in a bike crash within my Graphic Novel. I wanted to play with time and so I set the scene with large, open panels, aiming to produce a fast-flowing read; the idea being that the viewer would move through the sequence with a fluidity that mirrored the action. And then, in the actual moment before the crash, the aim is to slow time, to interrupt the flow by increasing the density of the panels and mixing up the pattern of images.

The reason for doing this is to mirror the reader’s experience to that of the protagonist. In the crash itself the ‘Experiencing I’ felt time slow down, which is symptomatic of a fiction of the how the brain works in threatening or high danger moments. According to David Eagleman in his accessible and informative book The Brain: The Story of You, in these sorts of situations (such as coming off a bike at high speed and falling directly in front of the path of oncoming vehicles), an area of the brain called the amygdala takes charge of the resources of the rest of the brain. “When the amygdala is in play, memories are laid sown with far more detail and richness than under normal circumstances; a secondary memory system has been activated” (2015, 65). Time doesn’t actually slow down, of course, we just remember everything in far richer detail than we are accustomed to. In reflection, the density of memories and sensory detail available leads us to remember that the time was was moving in slow motion.

The memory of hitting the road, looking up and seeing the tires, the grille of that car rushing towards my head as I hung suspended in that moment, feeling certain I was about to die in a quite grisly fashion, is one multi layered memory that I’d prefer not to have. However, imagine if we could bring the amygdala into play at all times; we could effectively expand our lived experience, and instead of living longer we could instead live with greater richness.

1 thought on “Hitting the road”

  1. I have a similar memory from a similar incident when I ALMOST was hit by a car when on my Honda 50cc scooter in London. I had to slam on my brakes, the bike went out from under me, both of us sliding along the road towards the side of the car which the scooter hit first then I hit the scooter and ricocheted off it into the path of the car. Luckily it had stopped by then. But I have a clear memory of holding onto the bonnet and pulling myself up and staring at the driver behind the wheel. Not fun.

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