Cook: Las Vegas and our response time

Cook: Las Vegas and our response time

October 8th, 2017 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

There is a gap, a moment, a pause.

Between what he did and how you respond.

A gap, a moment, a pause.

Between what she said and how you respond.

There is a gap, a moment, a pause.

Between something in the outside world — a comment, a tweet, a rude cashier, a hostile neighbor — and your reaction.

Your anger. Your rage. Your fear. (Or, rather, our anger. Our rage. Our fear).

There is a gap, a moment, a pause.

It may feel like milliseconds. It may feel like nanoseconds. It may feel like there's absolutely no time whatsoever between the infuriating, offending words he said or the insulting, cruel things she did and the immediate and blistering way we get angry and outraged and lose our temper.

But if you look close enough, you'll see a gap.

A moment.

A pause.

And it's in this space that the whole world hangs in balance.

When the gap is microsmall, we don't experience enough time to think before we react. And when we react without thinking, we suffer, often saying words or doing things we regret for years.

"I was out of my mind," we might say later. "I wasn't even thinking."


Someone flips us off in traffic. Someone posts something about Trump. (Or Trump posts something about Trump.) We see Kaepernick. We hear about the nearby Confederate statue.

And we are immediately sucked in. Triggered. Hooked.

We swell with emotion. We flush. Then, we respond: yelling, hitting, shouting, suppressing, whatever.

All of this is lightning fast.

But it doesn't have to be.

A few years ago, I got tired of being angry. Tired of burning up so much energy. Tired of the stress and emotional hangover. So I began to look at my anger: where does it come from? What does it feel like? (My chest tightens. My head gets heavy and thick. The skin around my eyes stretches taut.) What triggers it?

The more I looked, the more I began to notice this little space between the external world — an email, a reckless driver in the lane next to me, something my kids did — and my response to it.

I noticed I didn't have to get angry.

At least, not as quickly.

Not as mindlessly.

I noticed that I had a choice on how to respond.

Call it my response time.

The more I paid attention to it, the bigger it got.

The bigger it got, the more freedom I experienced.

I realized I had a choice: my response was my own.

It wasn't dependent on what she said. Or he did.

My response was my own.

I once heard of a monk — I believe it was the character in Roland Merullo's delightful "Breakfast with Buddha" series — who once was confronted by an offensive and rude man.

You can't offend me, the monk replied. It's impossible to offend me.

In other words, the monk's interior is so independent of his outside world. His emotions were not like a jittery hummingbird, but more like a mountain. Not yanked here and there by this and that.

Don't worry. I'm not holier than thou. I'm not some emotional-less robot or ice prince. I still get ticked. Royally. Frequently. (While writing this — or trying to — my kids started fighting. So I ran upstairs yelling at them to stop yelling so I could finish writing this column about not yelling.)

In America these days, our response time is lightning fast. Anger seems like our dominant emotion.

But what if we could learn to delay our response? What if we could make a little more elbow room for ourselves? Expand the real estate between the comment that normally infuriates us and our reaction, which doesn't have to add to the fury?

We can work on that space.

Pay attention to that gap.

Be mindful of the moment.

We don't have to respond to aggression with more aggression.

Because our anger clogs like a blocked artery.

That leads to division.

That leads to breakdown.

And that leads to violence.

Las Vegas.



Or a million other places where violence crushes things, families get broken, words are said we can't get back.

These words today are my response to Las Vegas: we cannot fix the violence and anger out there until we fix the violence and anger in here.

There is a gap.

A moment.

A pause.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315