Guy Browning: How to ... pause

Pauses are the antimatter without which art would be meaningless. Beethoven, Picasso and Pinter are all masters of the spaces in between notes and lines and words.

Pauses in conversations can have as much meaning as what is actually being said. A slight pause before saying yes renders it a no. A pause also gives the impression that you are carefully weighing your words before you speak, even though your brain is probably panicking during it. Live broadcasts often have a delay to prevent people saying outrageous things on air. It would be good if email also had a slight pause after you hit send, so that you could retrieve things you instantly regret. The wise think before they speak, with the result that the truly wise rarely say anything.

A pause sounds much better than a delay. If you knew your flight was pausing, you'd feel a lot better about it than if it was just delayed. Even the word pause sounds like a pause, starting off smartly but then decelerating to a stop.

Pressing pause on the DVD player means you don't have to miss any part of a film you're watching. The downside is that The Omen loses its ability to terrify if you've just had half an hour on the phone with Uncle Brian. At work, there is an increasingly popular mechanism for pressing pause - it's called the sabbatical. This is where you're allowed to take unpaid leave and do something towards your personal growth. Growing your toenails on the sofa doesn't normally count.

In general, pausing is a sign that you are in control of a process and not to be rushed. Men should be trained to pause during lovemaking so that women have a chance to catch up. Similarly, women should pause in conversation to check for signs of life in the man. Children pause only once a day, when they go to sleep.

The faster life gets, the more important it is to take a pause. Many things cannot be seen at speed, let alone appreciated. Once you do pause, you'll be amazed that there is a slower world unfolding at its own unhurried pace under your very nose. Pausing within a pause is the secret of meditation, but it is not to be recommended at traffic lights.

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