Session 2 - Speed Reading Workout
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I was heading towards the speed-reading course, thinking and asking myself all the time how will it happen and what was the final result going to be like. In the last couple of days, I heard quite a lot of opinions from people more or less competent, generally contradictory opinions, meaning that some of them found it extremely helpful and possible, while others said that something like this is not possible and all of it is just a delusion that lasts a month, time in which they invest financial and temporal resources. For a while I got caught up in this extra-dimension, time; the speed that we live our life at, which pushes us to break the temporal barriers, to open a door that allows us to win more time for ourselves, for our family and for work. I consider now that speed-reading should be part of the souvenir room that I just entered after opening the door of temporal barriers. Speed-reading should allow me to lower my reading time and understanding the texts that I read to almost half. An ordinary man reads with approximately 250 words per minute, which means that it will take him between 4 and 6 hours to read a book of 200 pages. This is quite a long time, especially if I think about how rarely I have this much free time in my day to day activities. Practically, it is almost impossible. This means that I will have to divide this time to several days, maybe even weeks, which does noting but gather the frustration by not fully understanding the text because I have to reread some paragraphs that I have forgotten or which have become unclear. I imagine that after finishing the speed-reading course I will be able to read at least at a double speed, compared to my current speed, that means 500 words per minute, which means that a book that I previously read in almost six hours, divided to several weeks, now I could read in around 2 to 3 hours and motivate myself to do this in one day or maximum two days. I find this interesting and fantastic. This way I will be able to read all the books that I have left aside because of the lack of time. What is more, with constant training, I could even reach to read with 1000 words per minute, a goal that seems almost incredible before beginning the speed-reading course.
With these thoughts, I entered the room which was going to host the course, a room in which you could feel the relaxing atmosphere and somewhat amused, I saw the surprised and curious faces of my future colleagues regarding their results that this speed-reading course was going to offer them. To my surprise, there were people with all different ages, and as I could tell by their clothing and behaviour, there were people form all the social environments. A lady caught my attention, dressed strident with a modern haircut and red lipstick, maybe too red, on perfectly contoured lips. I don’t know if she caught my attention because she was beautiful or because she had a fake, loud laugh and the stupid habit to gesticulate excessively and mostly theatrically. On the other end of the room, there was a man, dressed in an elegant suit, looking at a tablet or at least he wanted to make that impression. But under his glasses with a thick, black frame, he kept looking at the lady mentioned before. He wasn’t old, but his grey hair suggested that he was older than the majority of people in the room. I could not hold myself back to ask myself, why does this man need to learn speed-reading? Maybe he only came because of that woman, that I hoped to find out more about in the near future, which could answer some of my questions. I didn’t manage to analyse the rest of my colleagues, because the gentleman at the cathedra coughed loudly, signalling, in search of our attention. At the end of the day I was a bit tired, but pleased about what I just learned. Until today, I had the impression that only people who were able to make a mental picture of a page could read at these speeds and to understand the text at the same time, using some special techniques of extracting and putting together the information. In the case of speed-reading, I learned that we were going to read a text and process the information from the interior of this, at a fast pace, directly proportional with the level of the reader’s training. I managed at one moment, in one of the breaks to speak with the psychologist who held the course. Even though I talked to him before I came, the discussions were over the phone, a context which made the talk impersonal, making it impossible to observe the other person’s face, his expressions, eyes, all of them adding up to a somewhat insipid conversation. Now, I could not look over the fact that this person truly believed in this project and was convinced that it is possible for all of us to considerably improve our reading speed at the end of this course. He told me that regardless of the environment we come from and regardless of our level of intelligence, he was sure that at the end everyone will at least double their reading speed. He mentioned the importance of the first test that we are going to take after the brake, and at which I surprisingly found out that I was reading 325 words per minute, level at which my memory capacity didn’t pass 80 percent. After another test, I lowered my speed to 290 words per minute with a memory capacity above 90 percent, a percent about the psychologist said it was really good. An average of these tests was going to be used as a starting point in measuring our performance as we progress in our course.
He explained during the day how the training sessions will look like, how the tests will be read, how the descriptive texts will look like for the trainings. He also highlighted the importance of memorizing, as well as the answers to the questions extracted from the tests’ context. I realized with stupor, that it wasn’t enough to read fast, but it was necessary to understand what I read, something natural, perfectly normal. Only in the second break I managed to talk a bit with the psychologist. On the first break, the voluptuous lady jumped on him and started questioning him. I also noticed after the first break, that two people left the room. I thought maybe they had some issues, but further I realized that they were not going to come back. We remained nine in the room. I went on to the next person, who had just sat down in front of me. All of us had to disposition a tablet, connected to the internet and on which there was installed the online speed-reading application. The person in front of me was a teenage girl, at least that’s what she looked like at a first sight, small, with a piercing in her eyebrow, a green strand of hair and wearing a large, colourful dress with high boots. I was sure that she liked rock music, just as she liked tattoos, one tattoo being visible under her right arm, going down on her ribs, a surely painful tattoo, which pushed me to admire the capability of these teens to accept the pain just to stand out of the crowd. However, she was somehow atypical, looking like she was painted there from another world; until she started to speak. She was French, but she spoke Romanian perfectly and what is more, at the speed-reading test she had a much higher score than me, which reminded me of that admiration. I found out later that she was doing her doctorate at Sobronne, in Compared Intercultural Communication and that she was in Romania at a six month long exchange programme. I found out that she learned Romanian a few months ago; once again I realized that I admire this girl, who seemed to be older than she looks. But I still didn’t understand why she needed this speed-reading course, question which she answered a few hours later, when she told us that she had a course for which she had to read the majority of interwar literature written by the most important Romanian authors of that time. She was going to compare these to contemporary literature and she didn’t have too much time. I became almost fascinated by this creature.
The three hours of the course went by very quickly, the end being marked by our psychologist’s long speech. Every one of us was going to understand the use of this course, because he spoke both to the people who had a job where it was necessary to read through a lot of text and to students as well, who wanted to learn how to read and memorize the information quickly. The psychologist emphasized excellently the information regarding the strong connection between the eyes and the brain, as well as the reaction speed of the eye muscles, those muscles that seem to be the quickest ones in our entire body. These muscles have the capacity to focalize a word in about 20-150 milliseconds. I was really surprised when the psychologist told us that those people who manage to read at the speed of 250 words per minute, focalize a word in approximately 250-300 milliseconds. A quick calculation told me that my eye muscles were focalizing in approximately 200 milliseconds, which was relatively close to the ocular capacity of 150 milliseconds. I laughed at myself because this meant that I still had a lot to work until I managed to train and develop my focalizing capacity. But my confidence grew when the psychologist assured us that each one of us has the capacity to develop our reading speed and this way to considerably reduce our focalizing time.
I was remembering all these aspects because I felt that something good has happened in my life. The hours which passed in the company of these people, in that classroom and in front of the psychologist somehow gave me confidence in my own strengths and in my capacity to improve. It seemed like all these added up to wake up the sleeping dragon that was living latently in me, an alter-ego that I have never met before and which I truly enjoyed seeing. The way back home was short, but enough to analyse another character from the course. A tall young man, with a sharp nose, with very short hair, to hide the fact that he was starting to get bald and an eternal smile on his face, was the fourth person to grab my attention. Finally, I realized that this was the order I interacted with these people. This boy grabbed my attention because he was always fidgeting against the movements he made. He was always trying to control his tics, which showed in his fingers, legs and even his head. It was visible that he was trying to control these, but as soon as he focused on the psychologist or the text, all these tics came out. He started to move his feet spasmodically, quickly hitting the floor with his heels, he was always fidgeting with his pen, and his head was twitching at almost equal intervals. I found out that he was suffering from a terrible disease, a disease that had no treatment, it was only possible to block it to a certain level. I’ve heard about multiple sclerosis in the plaques before, but I never met or interacted with someone suffering of this disease. This boy, just found out recently that he had this problem, explaining to us with a voice that was sometimes whipping the words, making obvious efforts to discuss calmly and to form coherent sentences. He explained to us that this disease causes the rupture of synapses, which lead to the loss of some reactions, being able to go as far as definitively affecting the centres responsible for speech or movement. He was sent to this course, because they believed that speed-reading has the ability to develop the brain, or at least some nerves. And he needed this thing. He had to conserve or constantly improve his remaining synapses. Sadly, the already broken ones were causing all these reactions that he couldn’t control when focusing on something else.
I was thinking that I felt pity for this boy’s situation. I was surprised that in this century, these kinds of disastrous diseases for the body and mind still exist. I was trying to imagine myself in his situation, but no matter how hard I tried, I realized that this would be a proof of egoism. I appreciated his will to develop and his maybe instinctual, primary need to face this situation. The psychologist has been exemplary with him, avoiding any hint regarding his disease. Also, neither of us, present at the course allowed ourselves to make any useless hints. I arrived at the house. On the door, there was a message. I thought that maybe it is just an announcement that usually refers to the apartment costs. Reading the message, quite a long one, I remembered the milliseconds necessary to get to understanding this text with speed-reading. I was wondering how long it took me to read that message from the number 8 association of flat owners. I smiled because I realized that this activity of improving reading capacity got under my skin, becoming this way curious about the way this course will end and the evolution I will have. The image of me reading a text at a speed of 1000 words per minute was the last image before falling asleep, enjoying that day’s achievements.