The answer is apparently to be more like Anthony Shadid, the extraordinary war reporter who died last week in Syria. Here’s a remembrance of him in The Atlantic from Thanassis Cambanis, a friend and fellow journalist:
Anthony Shadid never seemed to be in a hurry. If you needed him, or simply wanted his company, he would linger to chat and fix you with a gaze that defined undivided attention. He gave the impression that nothing was more important to him than whomever he happened to be speaking to, even if he had a dozen deadlines. His hospitable nature blended seamlessly with Levantine mores, but I think it originated in equal measure from his origins in Lebanon, in Oklahoma, and in his entirely exceptional soul.
Often, I was scared when I was with Anthony. He reassured in the most primal manner, by example. The day after Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad, hundreds of journalists, Iraqi fortune seekers, and U.S. Marines thronged the front lot of the Palestine Hotel. In a panic, I found Anthony in his room upstairs, surrounded by stacks of bottled water. “You have time for a coffee?” he inquired, as if I were the busy one, as if time were limitless. Around him, in a way, it was. The more he slowed things down in the minute, the more minutes he seemed to pack into a day.
via The Things That Anthony Shadid Taught Me – Thanassis Cambanis – International – The Atlantic.
Some psychologists call this state flow, a state in which you’re fully immersed and focused, and things seem to work well and time sort of holds still for you. I’m not quite sure that gets at it. I’ve no doubt that one get get in a state of flow for discrete periods; I’ve had it happen on the tennis court and the pitcher’s mound and when playing music, sometimes for as much as a couple hours at a time, and it’s a splendid thing. But I find it hard to believe there are people who can sustain that for hours or days at a time, so that you find them, as people apparently found that Shadid, in that state more often than not, or seemingly always. Was Shadid’s connection to his friends a state of mind or a social skill? Can you separate them? Was Shadid like this with his kids?
I imagine I could dig up some studies that seemed to get at this, but I wouldn’t have much faith in them. To me this remains yet a mystery. I suspect it does to science as well. But I was intrigued to find this said about Shadid; it fits with other accounts that described him seemingly unruffled by danger.