Hurry Up and Wait

Posted on January 12, 2010

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I was carrying out my New Years Resolution to go walking at least once a week and enjoy the world for a bit each day, by practicing a little parkour. Not exactly walking, but it is still a great way to connect with the environment. Especially when you face plant into the dirt after a horrendous precision jump that I should have never went for because I was going extremely to fast. My first thought when I hit the dirt was, “Whoa. Alright, nothing feels funny or broken…” I stretched out all of my limbs, and then relaxed, and then I just laughed thinking to myself, “Wow, Joseph. That was dumb. Lets not do that again eh’?”

I then slowed down quite a bit and focused a little more on the basics of just moving with the environment. As I did so, my thoughts slowed down a bit as well and became more focused on other things besides my movements. I thought back to my recent spill into the dirt, laughed quietly once again to myself, and I thought about what caused me to slip. It came quite quickly to me that I was simply moving entirely to fast. As soon as I discovered that, my mind went to work making strange connections to things that shouldn’t have any connection. The thought of Atlanta, GA traffic came to mind. This may have something to do with having just been to the ATL this past weekend, but nevertheless, these two thoughts never should have connected. I’m glad they did though, as I am most other times when my mind makes these crazy connections.

If you have never travelled through Atlanta, it’s like travelling no where else. On second there are seven lanes of traffic flowing rather smoothly. Everyone is going about 70 MPH, you have a couple of vehicles hopping lanes, and it is your typical day on the freeway. Then all of sudden everything comes to a near halt. There is a glare of red on all sides as brake lights come to life, so as to scare the car following them into slowing down. I don’t know how scary it is for the car following, but it is one of the scariest feelings in the world for passengers carrying on a conversation and not paying attention to the traffic. In less than three seconds everyone has went from travelling at speedy 70-80 MPH to creeping along at a mere 30-40 MPH. Now this would normally be normal for freeway travel, but it is different in Atlanta, simply because it happens many times over a short period of time. This happens at least once a minute, and sometimes more. You would think that accidents are rampant, but they’re few in numbers surprisingly. Still though, every time this happens, it is extremely frustrating, time consuming, and dangerous. When I think about how the traffic flows in my hometown of just 15,000 people, I realize it doesn’t flow very well here even. I see people all the time step down on the gas in order to make a yellow light. Most of the time they don’t make it and end up having to pretty much slam on their brake pedals in order to slow down before they are parked in the middle of the intersection or jetting through a red light. Once again, frustrating to the traveler behind that has to slam on their brakes as well, you didn’t save any time, and most of all it is simply dangerous! Stop signs are another place you can witness idiocy at play. How many times do you see someone take off giving gas to their willing engines up until the last second, only to hit the brakes and come to a stop sign 50 yards away. It is from top to bottom idiotic.

In a way I think this reflects society. We don’t want to slow down, we don’t want to have to stop, we just want to keep moving forward. It’s not only that we want to keep moving forward, but we want to keep moving forward at a high rate. We wants things in the real world, to be like they are in our virtual worlds; we want things now, immediately, pronto, straight away, instantly, in half a shake. I think this mentality comes from things like the Internet, automatic manufacturing, and the speed of computers. I want to share with you a quote from Jamais Cascio.

“…manufacturing is really great when all component systems work perfectly, but when a part breaks down, the whole operation comes to a complete halt. Failure happens. So we’d better build in a way to absorb it.”

I share that with you because there is simply no other way to put it. As much as society, I feel, wants things to be automated and work perfectly, that will simply never happen. Things break, failure happens, and if we continue to strive for that world of automation, we’ll have to stop and fix those things that have broken. If you step back and look at it, it is rather ironic. Here’s another quote for you.

“How do we slow down what matters the most and speed up what benefits change and progress?” – John Maeda

That I think is the fundamental question that needs answering. Personally, I believe we do this by simply slowing down. This stop, go, stop, go, stop, go motion of the world isn’t working anymore. I say we stop hurrying up to wait around, and start building our world up to absorb, hinder, and slow the stopping blows. I don’t want to impede progress and become complacent, but I think we need to seek reconnection with ourselves, with each other, and with the world.

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Posted in: Culture, Zen