Appreciating Time

“To Any One” by Witter Bynne from Rittenhouse, Jessie B. The Second Book of Modern Verse. New York:  1919

Whether the time be slow or fast,
Enemies, hand in hand,
Must come together at the last
And understand.

No matter how the die is cast
Nor who may seem to win,
You know that you must love at last —
Why not begin?

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers New York: Scribner, 1921 Pages 76-7

August – 1839 — Yet, after all, the really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure, and then but do what he loves best.  He is anxious only about the fruitful kernels of time.  Though the hen should sit all day, she could lay only one egg, and, besides, would not have picked up materials for another.  Let a man take time enough for the most trivial deed, though it may be for the paring of his nails.  The buds swell imperceptibly, without hurry or confusion, as if the short spring days were an eternity. —
Then spend an age in whetting thy desire,
Thou need’st not hasten if thou dost stand fast.

Some hours seem not to be occasion for any deed, but for resolves to draw breath in.  We do not directly go about the execution of the purpose that thrills us, but shut our doors behind us, and ramble  with prepared mind, as if the half were already done.  Our resolution is taking root or hold on the earth then, as seed first send a shoot downward which is fed by their own albumen, ere they send one upward to the light.

David Stein, The Catholic Agitator, May 1994 Quoted on Page 71 of the July/August 1994 issue of The Other Side

Cult of Efficiency “I have shunned the efficient mode of making things and instead perform all the stages of the work myself one object at a time. No single step is too burdensome, because it is inseparably linked to all the other steps.  The result is that I am not very ‘productive.’ Another very curious result of my inefficiency is that I love my work.”

A Chinese Garden of Serenity, Mount Vernon, New York, Page 39

WHETHER time is long or short, and whether space is broad or narrow, depend upon the mind.  Those whose minds are at leisure can feel one day as long as a millennium, and those whose thought is expansive can perceive a small house to be as spacious as the universe.

Leonard, George Burr.  The Transformation.   U.S.A.:  1972. Page 155

Once a few years back I flew from New York to San Francisco feeling a joy and exuberance I could barely restrain.  I had  been involved in a project that had seemed unlikely if not impossible of success and yet had succeeded beyond my highest expectations.  It was one of those moments when all things, including dancing in the aisles, seem possible.  My companions on the flight were a man in his thirties and a woman in her early twenties, both good friends.  Not long after takeoff the three of us managed to squeeze into the two seats on the left of the aisle.  As the plane rose, we seemed to rise much higher.  We were completely oblivious of the other passengers.  We talked about the incredible weeks just passed and the more incredible possibilities of the future.  Our voices rose.  We hugged and kissed each other with passion and belief.  We wept tears of joy.  About two-thirds of the way through the flight we became aware of the other passengers.  Surely they had been shocked and outraged by our behavior.  But no, it  was all exactly the same.  The robots applied themselves to their paperwork.   The stewardesses moved efficiently along the aisles.  Their smiles revealed no change of attitude or emotion as their glances met ours.  It was as if we  had been encased in clear plastic so that our energy could in no way infect the other passenger or otherwise  influence the functioning of the cabin.  The airline, after all, is professional.  And so the flight ended and we came to earth.  A month later, I joined the robots again.  No trouble.

Gabor Salamon., es Zalotay Melinda.  Stop the World! I Want to Get Off. Alfoldi Nyomda Rt., Debrecen, 1995.  ISBN 9637943668, Page 94

There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.
–Mary Wilson
Eudora Seyfer, “The joys of puttering – Puttering renews the soul and inspires creativity.” from the August 23, 2007 edition -http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0823/p18s02-hfes.html
Have you noticed? Puttering has almost disappeared from modern life. There was a time when it was permissible to say, “I’m just going to stay home today and putter.” And there you were, snug and smug, puttering around your house all day. But a whole generation is growing up unaware of the joys of puttering. From kindergarten on, children are prejudiced against puttering by the feelings of guilt our culture heaps upon anyone who is not constantly accomplishing, producing, excelling, endeavoring, earning, competing or winning. Actually, not one of those words matters a whit while one putters. The world’s problems pale; the foibles and follies of the human race are forgotten.
Putterers come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and genders, but they all share the ability to shift their thoughts into neutral and open their minds to all sorts of unexpected, amazing ideas.

Some of the favorite activities of the putterer are:

  1. Rearranging the furniture. For the putterer, the ultimate joy lies in shoving furniture around a room, resulting in a totally different look. “I think I’ll move the table to the corner, drape it with Grandma’s antique quilt, and top it with a pot of ivy.” The result is feeling the joy of surprise when the room is transformed.
  2. Decorating the mantle. A putterer often spends happy hours turning the mantle into a celebration. Should the blue transferware pitcher go to the right or the left of the brass candlestick? Should the antique clock be centered or off center? Would a caravan of old matchbox cars across the mantle look nostalgic and festive? With each change, the putterer must stand back and study the look of it.
  3. Rearranging the contents of the garage. A putterer can while away a happy day tidying and transforming the garage into a showplace of the miscellaneous. The joy of aligning containers of car wax and windshield wiper fluid, of positioning the hammers and pliers, of arranging the saws and the shears, of hanging the hoe and the spade – these are the joys of one who putters from morning till night out there in happy solitude.
  4. Sprucing up the backyard. A putterer loves to dig a dandelion, transplant a daisy, stir the compost heap, sweep the sidewalk, deadhead the blossoms, stack a woodpile. Then, after puttering all day, a putterer likes to stroll slowly about the yard several times to inspect minute details and admire the results of his puttering.
  5. Embellishing the front porch. You can often spot the home of a putterer by simply driving around your neighborhood. It is as though the putterer’s joie de vivre has burst forth onto the porch. Perhaps an old chair with a pot of pansies on it appears in the spring or an accumulation of gourds and pumpkins and Indian corn are visible in the fall. During the winter holidays, a putterer’s porch becomes a festive celebration for all to enjoy.

Everyone deserves a day to putter. It’s good for the soul. So if you are a putterer, take pride in your puttering. Wonders are wrought by putterers. Putterers march to a different drummer; they putter to their own poetic patterns. They also serve who pause to putter.
Karen Finley, Procrastinate New York, 1993:  ISBN 067187182X

The gentle art of procrastination is to enjoy putting off accomplishing something while people are waiting and calling.  The pleasure is in having people wait for you.  It is such a wonderful feeling to know people are waiting for us to finish, to start, to make a decision.  Procrastinators will eventually accomplish the task.  But time will pass and the deadline will be over and other work will just pile up.

Procrastination is very sexy, too.  It’s like putting off an orgasm with a lot of foreplay.  And finally when you do it, it’s such a relief.  Procrastination is healthy.  You don’t have to be depressed not to do something.  You’re just careful with your time.

Procrastination earns you respect.  People will assume you are so busy and in demand that you can’t possibly respond to them.  When that happens, you will be more in demand and you will have more to procrastinate about.

Slow Down by Kevin Moore / John Lewis Parker recording of 1998
from Slow Down (OKeh/550/Epic/Sony 491613 9), copyright notice

When I was a young boy
Well they tried to tell me
That I was movin’
Movin’ way too fast
And I knew everything
About everything
But I really didn’t wanna listen
To a bunch of old folks talkin’ trash

So I got out on the highway
Pedal to the floor
Smokin’ and drinkin’
And a whole lot more
But when they came to collect me
Out of that jail
They said boy next time
You get no bail

(Chorus:)
You better slow down
You better slow down

Woke up one mornin’
Ooh to a hunger
I moaned
And I began to twitch
Felt the need
For some lovin’
A little sweet somebody
To scratch my itch
Momma said I don’t mean to pry
But I’m here to advise you
Seeds like to grow
When you put ’em in fertilizer

(Chorus)

Doin’ my own thing
I’m all grown up
Yes I am
Little bit older
But I feel like a young buck
I’m ridin’ down the highway
In a brand new mini van
Wife and kids screamin’
Ooh God I’m a family man
I’m outta mind
Losin´ control
I could leave tomorrow
But there ain’t nowhere to go

(Chorus)

Modern efficiency vs. one task at a time

By Marilyn Gardner TUESDAY, JULY 3, 2001

The ability to do several things at once has become one of the great measures of self-worth for 21st-century Americans. It’s called multitasking, and it takes many forms. As one example, why go out to lunch when you can eat at your desk, talk (or at least half-listen) to a client on the phone, scroll through your e-mail, and scan a memo simultaneously?  And why simply work out on a treadmill when you could be watching television and talking on a portable phone at the same time? What a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment – three activities for the time commitment of one! Ah, such efficiency.
No wonder those who turn “To do” lists into a time-management art form are inclined to boast: “Look, Ma, how many things I can accomplish at once. If I’m this busy, I must be important.”
Yet last week the New York Assembly struck a blow against multitasking, at least behind the wheel, when it approved a bill banning drivers in the state from using hand-held cellular phones.
Too dangerous, the assembly said, citing research showing that drivers are four times more likely to have a collision when they are talking on a cellphone.
No one can argue against using time effectively. But accompanying the supposed gains are losses. Consider the woman out for an early-morning walk in a suburban neighborhood. She strides briskly, head down, cellphone clamped to her ear, chattering away, oblivious of the birds and flowers and glorious sunshine. Did the walk have any value?
More than a decade ago, long before multitasking became a word in everyday use, a retired professor of theology in Indiana with whom I corresponded made a case for what might be called uni-tasking – the old-fashioned practice of doing one thing at a time. Offering the simplest example, he said, “When you wash the dishes, wash the dishes.” Good advice, I’ve found, whatever the task.
In her forthcoming book, “Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert,” naturalist Terry Tempest Williams makes a similarly persuasive case for simplifying activities in an essay titled “Ode to Slowness.”
“To see how much I can get done in a day does not impress me anymore,” Ms.  Williams writes. Noting that “we worship speed and desire,” she describes what constitutes a typical routine for many people: “Talk fast. Work fast. Drive fast.  Walk fast. Run. Who ever told us to wear jogging shoes to work? Don’t saunter.  Don’t look. Speed walk. Speed dial. Federal Express will fly our thoughts around the world.”
Lamenting that people often “do not trust slowness, silence, or stillness,” she emphasizes the value of becoming “a caretaker of silence, a connoisseur of stillness.”
That’s easy for her to say, perhaps, as a writer responding to the rhythms of nature rather than to the daily demands of a 9-to-5 job and a boss. Still, some researchers are finding that multitasking, by dividing one’s concentration, actually diminishes productivity. Rather than being a friend, it becomes a foe, a thief robbing frenzied people of time to focus and reflect.
Perhaps the New York Assembly’s brave vote will spur lawmakers around the country to follow suit. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 other states are considering similar measures on cellphones.
Perhaps, too, the ban on phoning-on-the-road will even spark a move away from other forms of dual activity. Who can tell? It could mark the first step in a welcome reconsideration of what really constitutes productivity and accomplishment.

 

Bass, Dorothy C.  Receiving the Day.   San Francisco:  Jossey – Bass, 2000.  ISBN 0787942871, Page 3

Busy people may think that what we need is a few more open boxes on the pages of our datebooks.  But in fact that would provide only a flat and short-lived remedy, and not only because those boxes soon fill up like all the others.  What we really need is time of a different quality.  We need the kind of time that is measured in a yearly round of feasts and fasts, in a life span that begins when a new-born is placed in her parents’ arms, and in a day that ends and begins anew as a line of darkness creeps across the edge of the earth.  This kind of time exists, but we have learned not to notice it.  Our gaze is fixed instead on a datebook, some of us anxiously hoping to squeeze into its little boxes all that we must do, others weeping to see that so many of the pages are blank.

 

Kingwell, Mark.  “Warning:  The Topic Today is Boredom.” Adbusters Autumn 98, Page 63-4

The culture in which we live is not one that happily tolerates boredom.  The culture fears boredom, hates it.  It banishes boredom in a growing firestorm of aural and visual excitement.  But because our human brains are flexible sponges of neuronfiring wetware, we can take more and more stimulation all the time even if the price of that  expansion of volume is the decline of substance, and desire.  The imperative here is an ever-rising scale of stimulation, a special-effects arms race.

Learn to love your boredom.  Most of us have one or two things we do which we don’t find boring.  If possible, arrange to be paid for doing one of these. Call yourself a professional, and be happy.  For the rest of life, find out what boredom has to teach you.  It is a form of meditation, an opportunity to look deep within yourself.  Stop heeding the voices clamoring to dispel your boredom.  Do nothing.  Listen to the sound of wanting a desire.

 

Easwaran, Eknath.  Take Your Time:  Finding Balance in a Hurried World.  New York:  1994.  ISBN 0786862211, Page 42

Make wise choices about what you read:  read only what is worthwhile.  And then take the time to read carefully.  I like to read slowly and with complete attention; I don’t even like background music or a cup of coffee at my side.

And when I reach the end of a chapter or a section, I close the book and reflect on what I have read.  I would much rather read one good book with concentration and understanding than to skim through a list of best-sellers which I will not remember and which will have no effect on my life or my understanding of life.  One book read with concentration and reflected upon is worth a hundred books flashed through without any absorption at all.

 

Brand, Stewart.  Time and Responsibility.   New York:  1999.ISBN 046504512X Pages 34 and 83

In recent years a few scientists (such as R.V. O’Neill and C.S. Holling) have been probing a similar issue in ecological systems:  How do they manage change, and how do they absorb and incorporate shocks?  The answer appears to lie in the relationship between components in a system that have different change rates and different scales of size.   Instead of breaking under stress like something brittle these systems yield as if they were malleable.  Some parts respond quickly to the shock, allowing slower parts to ignore the shock and maintain their steady duties of system continuity.  The combination of fast and slow components makes the system resilient, along with the way the differently paced parts affect each other.  Fast learns, slow remembers.  Fast proposes, slow disposes.  Fast is discontinuous, slow is continuous.  Fast and small instructs slow and big by accrued innovation and occasional revolution.  Slow and big controls small and fast by constraint and constancy.  Fast gets all our attention, slow has all the power.  All durable dynamic systems have this sort of structure; it is what makes them adaptable and robust….

Fixing digital discontinuity sounds like exactly the kind of problem that fast-moving computer technology should be able to solve; but it can’t because fast-moving computer technology is the problem.  By constantly accelerating its own capabilities (making faster, cheaper, sharper tools that make ever faster, cheaper, sharper tools) the technology is just as constantly self-obsolescing.  The great creator is the great eraser.

 

Pierce, Linda Breen.  Simplicity.   U. S. A.:  2000 ISBN 0967206715 Page 23

If materialism is addictive, so is our desire for productivity and efficiency.  We are constantly trying to milk the most out of each minute of the day — on the phone while doing something else (like driving), driving instead of walking, reading the newspaper while eating breakfast, watching TV while helping our kids with their homework.  Our love affair with productivity and efficiency generates busy, chattering minds.  We are like the lead robot character in the movie “Short Circuit,” always clamoring for more input.  Often we have trouble relaxing when we finally get some leisure time; we cannot easily escape the habit of working, thinking, and above all, saving time.
And we have plenty of company.  When an addiction is the cultural norm, it is hard to realize we need help.  After all, isn’t everybody doing it?  Gaining perspective on our condition is a real challenge when our society depends on our staying this way to continue its economic growth.

 

Earl Martin, From Day 5 of the Trek Program from the Mennonite Central Committee, 1997 — David Schrock-Shenk, Project Coordinator

Sometimes I am tempted to think if I could accumulate a sufficient nest egg, I could relax and have time for what I consider the important things in life: quality time with friends and family, or service with folks who have experienced hard times, I have an unsettling feeling some fallacy lies hidden in this logic, that I am missing some liberating paradox of biblical proportions. A story of Anthony de Mello, the priest from India, reminds me of that paradox.

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying leisurely beside his boat.

“Why aren’t you fishing?” asked the industrialist. “Because I have caught enough fish for the day, “ said the fisherman.  “Why don’t you catch some more?” “What would I do with it?”

“You could earn more money,” was the reply.  “With that you could fix a motor to your boat, go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets, These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats … maybe even a fleet of boats.

Then you would be a rich man like me. “What would I do then?” “Then you could really enjoy life.”
“What do you think I am doing right now?”

 

Baldwin, Bruce A. Ph. D.  It’s All In Your Head. Wilmington: Direction Dynamics 1985. Page 152

Here are a number of strategies to help you get started in the difficult process of psychologically slowing down.  You may think of other techniques as you become more involved in reversing your Hurry Sickness.

a.  Catch Yourself.  Fix your hurrying tendencies so well in mind that your are aware of them every time you begin to rush around.  At first you won’t always catch yourself, but you will soon get better with practice.  You will also learn how to slow down quickly when you find yourself in high gear.

b.  Remind Yourself.  Many times each day remind yourself of the futility of hurrying and the negative impact it is having on you.  Remind yourself that you have more than enough control to stop it and how good you feel about the gains you are making each day.

c.  Rescheduling.  Avoid scheduling appointments back to back.  Give yourself a breather between each one.  Use that time to sit back and relax for a moment.  Leave home a few minutes earlier to enjoy a leisurely and pleasant drive to work.
d.. Get Away.  Your workplace and your home may contribute to your rapid pace.   (“There are so many things that need to be done.”)  Get out of the house with the family regularly on weekend excursions, day trips, or evenings out, in lieu of big blocks of time once or twice a year.

e.  Focus on the Positive.  Begin to build cooperation and a team spirit by consciously dropping your negativity and cynicism.  Focus on the positive in yourself, your subordinates, and your family.  Respond to problems with encouragement and support, not the impatient, explosive anger that is so
personally rejecting of others.

f. Small talk.  Take time for pleasant chats with colleagues, family members, and your support staff each day.  A lunch with your spouse, an easygoing chat in the car, and playing with the kids are all opportunities to build relationships, relax yourself, and get to know people you care about once again.  Take care not to talk about work.

g.  Quiet Times.  Get back in touch with some of your deeper feelings and maintain perspective by spending thirty-minute quiet times by yourself several times a week.  Leisurely walks, sitting in a quiet chapel, or watching the sun go down are helpful to get comfortable with yourself and gain the perspective you need to slow down.

 

Kabat-Zinn, Jon., Wherever You Go, There You Are , New York, 1994:  ISBN1562827693, Page 39
It reeks of paradox.  The only way you can do anything of value is to have the effort come out of non-doing and to let go of caring whether it will be of use or not.  Otherwise, self-involvement and greediness can sneak in and distort your relationship to the work, or the work itself, so that it is off in some way, biased, impure, and ultimately not completely satisfying, even if it good. Good scientists know this mind state and guard against it because it inhibits the creative process and distorts one’s ability to see connections clearly.

 

Roberts, Elizabeth., and Elias Amidon.  Prayers For a Thousand Years.   New York:  1999.  ISBN 006066875, Page 67

Take time to listen to the birds,
the waves,
the wind.

Take time to breathe in the air,
the earth,
the ocean.

Take time to be still,
to be silent,
to allow God to fill you up
with deep peace and love.

Mairead Maguire, Recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, Community of the Peace People, Ireland

 

Roberts, Elizabeth., and Elias Amidon.  Prayers For a Thousand Years.   New York:  1999.  ISBN 006066875 Page 70

We slow to the world,
take a deep breath,
another,
and yet another.
We allow our spiritual gravity to bring us to rest
and find our place.
Remembering bubbles up.
We know this place.

Here
we listen to our children,
laugh from the bottom of our belly,
heal and are healed by our neighbors,
touch the ones we love.
We recognize delight.

In being restored we remember
No effort is complete without the essential ingredient of
sacred rest

Wayne Muller, Author and teacher, Bread for the Journey, California

 

Doors 4  – SPEED – Speaker Transcript — Doors of Perception 4   Speed  Speaker Transcript
Juliet Schor: “Speeding-Up of Everyday Life” — Updated 18-12-1996 www.doorsofperception.com/doors/revamped_frameset.html

Let me briefly mention five principals of design that I think go along with the downshifting trend.  First of all they need less expensive versions of products, eco design is typically very upscale and therefore contradictory with the downshifted life style.  Second we need to stop continuously upscaling because downshifters are not, they are going in the opposite direction. Third we need to give durability to products because downshifters are less into novelty and product turnover.  They want something that lasts.  Fourth we need to emphasise function over symbolism. Downshifters are finding symbolic meaning outside of the consumer sphere, unlike people trapped in work and spend.  They want function in their products, so we can stop advertising.  And finally downshifters are less oriented to speed and convenience. Time is what they have.  They have gone from the ranks of the time poor and the money rich to the ranks of the time rich and the money poor.  I think we are to pay attention to that.

 

Moore, Thomas, The Re-enchantment Of Everyday Life, New York, 1996: ISBN  0060172096, Pages 13 and 188

I once approached my wife with the idea of purchasing yet another machine to help make my work more efficient.  I would have had to use family funds, and so I sought her opinion.  “Yes,” she said, “it makes a lot of sense to be able to work a little faster, but for the same amount of money you could buy a beautiful rug for your studio.”  I bought the rug…. If something in a town isn’t working, but the place does have enchantment, then the brokenness is not so serious and may not even need attention.  An enchanting house may not have running water, and enchanting city may not have an efficient bus system, and an enchanting person may be out of work or lying in a hospital bed.  Good functioning is not the primary value in a soulful life.

 

Shenk, David.  The End of Patience.   Indiana:  1999. ISBN 025333634,  Pages ix and 1

With hypertext, endings are irrelevant — because no one ever gets to one.  Reading gives way to surfing, a meandering, peripatetic journey through a maze of threads.   The surfer creates his or her own narrative, opting for the most seductive link immediately available.  As a research technique, this is superb.  As a mode of thought, however, it has serious deficiencies…. What if I told you that there’s no such thing as a fast modem, and there never will be?  That’s because quickness has disappeared from our culture.  We now only experience degrees of slowness.  With conveniences like the fax machine, email, FedEx, beepers, and so on, we’ve managed to compress time to such an extent that we’re now painfully aware of every second that we wait for anything.  Did you ever ride in an elevator with someone so impatient, the person just kept smacking one of the floor buttons over and over?  We’re all becoming that person, a culture of restless button smackers.  The other day I was in a McDonald’s that had just introduced the guaranteed-ninety-second lunch.  Now that’s fast-food.  But do you think that people won’t be tapping their fingers on the counter, rolling their eyes, even looking at their watches?  If you’re in that button-smacking frame of mind, ninety seconds can seem like an eternity.

 

Sparrow.  “Proverbs.”  UTNE READER

All vacations are justified.

No one ever relaxed in a lounge.

 

Jeremy Seabrook interviewed… UTNE READER ALMANAC Pages 58-9

Get to know your neighbors and greet them whenever your paths cross.
Welcome new people to the block with a gift of food or an offer of help.
Shop at neighborhood businesses, even if the prices are slightly higher.
Losing local businesses will cost your far more than you’d ever save at superstores.
Take the time to pick up litter in your street and alley.
Plant flowers in the front yard, decorate for holidays throughout the year, fly flags and banners, paint your house in heart-warming colors.
Drive slowly and carefully, keeping a sharp eye out for pedestrians, bicyclists, and scampering kids.
Lend a hand to your elderly neighbors.
Encourage kids on your block to fulfill their dreams, and bolster them with smiles and compliments.
Play your music at sound levels that don’t intrude on your neighbors.
Vote—especially for local offices like city council, school board, and park district.  And follow up by
introducing yourself to elected officials and staying in touch with them on key issues.  Tell them your ideas  about improving your community.
Never let anyone’s biases or stereotypes about life in the inner city go unanswered.  Take the initiative by trumpeting all the good things about your neighborhood.

 

From Davidson, Jeff. Time Management, Breathing Space, United States, 1991: ISBN 0942361326, Page 11

Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love
Time is not.

Henry van Dyke, Sculptor and Artist

 

Gleick, James.  Faster:  The Acceleration of Just About Everything.   New York:  1999.  ISBN 0679408371, Page 223

The paradox of efficiency means that as the web tightens it grows more vulnerable to small disturbances – disruptions and delays that can cascade through the system for days.   For example:  American Flight 1128, inbound form Mexico, is now forty-four minutes late, and the computers are deciding whether to delay some of the connecting flights those passengers will be racing toward.  This, too, will be a real-time decision based on complex modeling.  The computer will know how many people are how many minutes late for each flight.  It will consider the distance to the gate, the time before the next available flight to the same city likelihood of new delays at the other end.  It will consider the passengers, too — if they have paid for first-class tickets, they will be more likely to find the gate waiting open for them.  Pilots often accuse Nason and his computers of being overly fixated on time.  “They ask, how can you close the door on a passenger running from three gates down?” says Nason.  “Well, there are 130 people on this airplane looking at their watches.”

It happens that Flight 1128 left Mexico late for reasons of “crew legality.”  The night before, its flight attendants, the only ones available, were twenty-seven minutes late leaving Miami and then forty-one minutes late arriving in Mexico.  That delay cut into their legally mandated overnight rest period.  So this morning the Dallas-bound flight could not depart until the precise minute when their rest period expired.
Networks like this are said to be tightly coupled.  A complex construction project with a timeline scheduled with perfect efficiency, all the slack squeezed out of it, may be tightly coupled and a candidate for serious disruption.   In the most extreme case, everything depends on everything else.  Vibrations anywhere can be felt everywhere.  The shin bone connected to the knee bone:  that is tight coupling in the engineer’s sense, especially if the ligaments do not allow too much flex.  Charles Perrow, in his study Normal Accidents, extended the concept to complex systems where the coupling connects not physical parts but abstract services, people, and organizations.  “Loosely coupled systems whether for good or ill, can incorporate shocks and failures and pressures for change without destabilization,” he notes.   “Tightly coupled systems will respond more quickly to these perturbations, but the response may be disastrous.”  In tightly coupled systems, the connective tissue is often time itself.  Process B in a drug-company production line or an aircraft-assembly plant or even a trade-school education must follow Process A as tightly as a ratchet and pawl.   Waiting time or stand-by time can mean flexibility or safety.  A tight system squeezes it out.

 

Stephen L. Talbott, The Future Does Not Compute; Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly and Associates;  1995  ISBN 1565920856, Page 189

And somehow the “analog” motions of writing make the words more intimately and expressively my own than the efficient, drumlike repetition of nearly identical keystrokes.  It is not at all the same experience to write (or speak) the words “ugly” and “fair,” whereas little difference can be found in typing them.

 

Cameron, Julia.  Creative ability. The vein of gold. New York.  1996.  ISBN 0874778360, Page 15

Writing by hand is not merely writing.  It is “righting.”  If we follow our hand, which both leads and follows our thoughts, that hand will point to the trail.  (Since we are on a pilgrimage, this is important!)

Writing by hand is like walking somewhere, instead of whizzing there in the car.  We notice landmarks.  We retain a sense of direction.  Writing by hand will show us True North and the false directions and switchbacks that have occurred, the shortcuts that saved us nothing and took us nowhere.

Remember, the hand holds a map in its palm; its fingers, holding a pen, become the tools of a cartographer.  We write, and as we do, we see the right lineaments of our life.  Each word is a new arrival, a place to stand on, like a musical note. “But, Julia!  I type a lot faster than I write!”

I understand.  But speed is not always desirable.  We are after a process that will allow for depth and distance, not just speed.  Writing by machine may accumulate pages, but I am not sure if those pages accumulate enough depth.  In the end, the pages are better when they are made by hand. We are on a pilgrimage, and writing by hand allows us to examine more closely the journey we are taking.  We write our views, and the term is quite literal.  We see how we feel.  We see our life by the way we finger it.

 

Kovach, Bill.  Warp Speed:  America in the Age of Mixed Media.   Century Foundation:  1999.  ISBN 0870784366

Page 89

Many of the problems journalists face in the Mixed Media Culture stem from fear of being scooped and lack of preparation.  The speed with which stories break means traditional news organizations are forced to make decisions more quickly now than they have ever been.  This is different from the days when news services such as United Press International coined the term “a deadline every minute.”  The news services were mostly relaying their always-breaking information to other journalists, who sorted through the varying accounts and cobbled together their own stories, which they bylined, “From Wire Services.”  Today, in effect, the pipeline goes straight to the citizen.  The journalist is playing the role more of conduit.  The citizen increasingly functions as the editor.

Page 90

After the Starr Report was issued and journalists sat to consider their mistakes and their triumphs, New York Times bureau chief Michael Oreskes came to just this conclusion:

“There is an old piece of advice I think every young reporter in a good newsroom gets:  Do your own work.   And I think the lesson of this whole thing for reporters comes down to some pretty simple standardslike that one. That’s what worked here.  The people who got it right were those who did their own work, who were careful about it, who followed the basic standards of sourcing and got their information from multiple sources.  The people who worried about what was “out there,” to use that horrible phrase that justifies so may journalistic sins, the people who worried about getting beaten, rather then just trying to do it as well as they could as quickly as they could, they messed up.  It’s amazing really how some simple virtues are re-proven by this whole thing.  I think fundamentally the people who tried to do it themselves   and did their won work came out of this fine.”

Page 98

The oldest value of news is to provide people with information they need in a manner that is useful for enhancing their understanding of the world.  The best journalism is the most efficient, because it relies most heavily on what is essential and leaves out what is not.   It avoids wasting people’s time by keeping things in proportion to their meaning.  It avoids irritating people by deceiving them or mixing advertising and news, or news and propaganda.

 

Hopkins, Richard B.  Prentice Hall Publishing, Des Moines,  IA  1999.  From a direct mail advertisment for How to Say It.

Imagine being able to write letters that are immediately and politely acknowledged … give instructions that are promptly (and correctly) carried out … prepare speeches that motivate and inspire your audience.

Imagine, too, never being at a loss for just the right words to clearly express the way you feel — whether your purpose is to congratulate or complain, express sympathy or anger, raise funds, confirm an appointment, or turn down a request.

You don’t have to imagine any longer.  Just detach the free-trial certificate below and return it in the enclosed postpaid envelope and I’ll send you a FREE 15-day trial copy Prentice Hall’s instant-reference book called HOW TO SAY IT.

 

The Red Hills—PETER DICKINSON  (from:  Chance, Luck and Destiny) A short story emailed from Lois Tzur at the  Kibbutz Naan in Israel

One year, about 1930, a European party comes to the area and makes films of Opsim’s father at his work.  They find that his method of producing iron involves seventeen separate processes, all of which he believes to be equally important.  Of these only five are really scientifically essential: the coarse charcoal provides the heat and carbon monoxide, the ants nest makes an efficient blast-furnace, and Toko-toko provides the blast; the red rocks are high-grade iron ore, and the white earth is powdered limestone which joins with the impurities in the ore and floats up when the iron melts and sinks to the bottom.  If Opsim’s father could make coke, he would be able to extract more iron from the ore, but as it is his methods are much more effective than those of most primitive iron-smelters.  The only thing is that he doesn’t know which of his methods are effective, so he doesn’t dare leave any of them out.

The exploration party does a survey of the home of the ant-children, counting the nests which have been excavated and turned into blast-furnaces in the past.   The oldest ones have probably disappeared completely, but even so they find traces of over four hundred, so they know that the process has been going on for two hundred years and  probably much longer.

Opsim’s father is too old to take in new ideas, but some smug European explains to Opsim how and why a blast-furnace works, and shows him how to build one without using an ants’ nest, and even helps him to construct a pair of bellows so there is no need to depend on Toko-toko.  Soon Opsim is making good iron all year round, and teaching young men of his own age the art.  The value of iron falls as it becomes plentiful, and the tribe is unable to buy enough millet for the season when the animals go away; so they make war on their neighbors and take the millet.  Tall soldiers with guns come from the coast to stop the war.   Among the reports sent back to the government in Europe is one on the value of the iron deposits in the red hills.

If you go there now you will find an ugly mining settlement.  Opsim’s tribe has vanished, though two of his sons work in the mine.  And the home of the ant-children has been leveled and its termites wiped out with DDT, because termites are a nuisance.

 

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself.
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness,
I can wait.

 

Marshall J. Cook, Slow Down and Get More Done, Hermosa Beach, CA: Listen and Live Audio, 1995

1. No one has the right to steal your time.
2. You decide how to use technology, not the other way around. Use the tools, not let them use you.
3. Make possibilities, not plans
4. Give yourself a break; treat yourself at least as good as the family dog.
5. Whenever possible, put it off
6. Don’t spend, save or waste time; live.

Once a day, do something that your ordinarily wouldn’t do, but would like to try.  Eat fallafel for lunch.  Skip lunch and go for a brisk walk.  Skip the walk and browse through a store you have never been in.  Listen to a street musician.  Put your feet up on your desk and do nothing for ten minutes, or until the rage for motion becomes so overwhelming your chair can’t hold you.

Just before you drift into sleep at night, review your day and some of the decisions you have made.  You don’t have to judge them, just recall them.
Think about tomorrow.  What do you want to do with that day?  What prevents you from doing as you will? What one thing could you do to begin to be more truly and happily yourself?  Tell yourself that you will do it.  Don’t waste yourself hoping you’ll be a good person tomorrow, or that you’ll somehow find the power and confidence to be yourself.  Declare peace on yourself, and on every creature on earth.  And go to sleep knowing that you will  awake powerful, peaceful and loving.

Learning to welcome the wait

Humans seem to be the only critters on earth that defy the law of conservation of energy.  When nothing needs to be done, no predator to flee, no prey to pounce on, no natural disaster to escape, no mate to mate with, most of our fellow inhabitants of the planet do nothing.  Some do it for months at a time.
We call it hibernation—a sure-fire way to beat cabin fever and the February doldrums.  But even when wide awake, most animals spend a lot of time waiting, and no creature on earth waits better than a dog.

Waiting can make you angry and impatient.  It can make you stressed and even sick.  Or, waiting can be an opportunity, an interlude, a bit of found time in an otherwise hectic, over-scheduled life.  Your attitude makes the difference.

You can’t change the wait; you can change the waiting.  Here’s how. Accept the wait as inevitable.  The world won’t rearrange itself for your benefit.  You must do some waiting.  You can resent it, rail against it, be surprised by it each time.  Or you can accept it, use it, turn an annoyance into a pleasure.  It’s your choice.

Surrender to the wait…. Figure the wait into your schedule; figure in slack time.  Give the wait a new name…. call it a rest instead….  Travel with a friend.  Bring a book and read your way through the wait…. Bring a notepad or sketch book…. Plan your dinner menus for the week.

List a few of your everyday miracles.  Take note of that which enhances your life. Ease everyday pleasures into your life.  Finding the right pleasures can be as elusive as finding the right work. Shun unrewarding rewards.

Discovering the value in goofing off

The ancient Greeks held leisure to be our highest state, but America’s Calvinist and Puritan founders passed laws against it.  We’ve had a hard time dealing with leisure ever since.  We define it as non-work—the absence of productive labor.  We demand utilitarian value from every moment.  Just try telling someone while you are taking a walk, reading a book, listening to music or watching “Wheel of Fortune” just for the hell of it.

No.

You’re improving your mind, getting aerobic exercise, or relieving your stress.   How seriously we take even our playing.  Real fans don’t just watch a football game, for example.  They plan the week around it, turn it into a social event, gather information and develop strategies with the care and precision of military tacticians.

“It is not the victory, but the contest that delights,” my dad liked to quote to me.  But his was a minority view.  In our culture, the game has no meaning without competition.  Just try suggesting that you and your opponents not  keep score the next time you go golfing or play bridge.  Only victory validates the playing.
Let’s look at leisure from another angle.  Suppose you define leisure as non-work time—something to be filled with important, suspiciously work-like activity, requiring schedules, priorities and measurable achievement.  What would happen if you re-defined it as “Time to do exactly what you want,” or “Time to do or not do as precisely as you please.”

If it’s too hard to let go of definitions and associations of a word you’re already familiar with, why not invent a new word.  Let’s call it “I wanna time.”

Creativity

When you get caught in the time trap, hurrying from place to place and item to item on the “must do” list, you leave no time for the reflection, the simmering and the incubation that yield the flashes of insight we call creativity.

Creativity is discovery.  It involves gathering and joining ideas nobody put together before.  It’s the triumph of originality over habit.  If you would create, you must remain flexible, receptive.  You must pay profound attention to the world within and the world without.  Sometime you must wait.  Creativity picks its own schedule.  You seek an answer for days, and finally give up.  The answer finds you in the night.  You shout your question, your answer comes in the silence.  Creativity is sometimes messy, and often inconvenient.

Discovering an idea is a little like drilling for oil.  You have reason to believe that there is oil down there  someplace.  You drill, you wait and hope.  You may have to sink a lot of shafts and drill a lot of dry wells. The payoff is a great, joyful gusher, surpassing anything that you dared to imagine.
Creativity is a lot of hard work, and it’s the most joyful play there is.  Creativity is allowing, accepting, nurturing, tolerating, forgiving, risking.   Creativity is not judging, evaluating, competing, rebuking, correcting.  Creativity is, “Let’s try and see what happens.” Creativity is not, “We must find the right answer.”  The seeker asks, “How do you get ideas?”  Creativity responds, “You’ll never stop getting them.”

 

Muoio, Anna.  “Great Ideas in Aisle 9.” Wired magazine,  April 2000, Page 48

“Creativity can cause a lot of confusion,” he says.  “When a group starts brainstorming freely, it will often digress after just three sentences.  Or you get people trying to synthesize ideas while they’re acquiring ideas, or trying to acquire ideas while they’re compressing ideas.  Then the whole system pretty much gets out of whack.”

But, by breaking the creative process into steps and developing tools to optimize those steps, this idea factory is able to run at an ever-faster pace.  “We’re striving to perfect our system in terms of speed and efficiency,” says Mettler.  And for that reason, he insists, the BrainStore will never run out of ideas.

 

Gleick, James.  Faster:  The Acceleration of Just About Everything.   New York:  1999.  ISBN 0679408371, Page 222

I’m going to kill myself.  I should go to Paris and jump off the Eiffel Tower.  I’ll be dead.  You know, in fact, if I get the Concorde, I could be dead three hours earlier, which would be perfect.  Or wait a minute.  It — with the time change, I could be alive for six hours in New York but dead three hours in Paris.  I could get things done, and I could also be dead.
— Woody Allen

Clocks cannot tell our time of day
For what event to pray,
Because we have no time, because
We have no time until
We know what time we fill,
Why time is other than time was.
— W.H. Auden

Page 230

It is easy to forget how very new in human history is the whole notion of time-saving.  Personal time management did not exist as a distinct category in book publishing until the 1980s.  The rare time-management titles of the last century, typically published by religious groups, advised readers on worthy ways to spend time, not ways to save time.   Our culture has been transformed from one with time to fill and time to spare to one that views time as a thing to guard, hoard, and protect.

Page 231

The experts who write these books reveal confusion about what it means to save time.  They flip back and forth between advertising a faster and a slower life.  They offer more time, in their titles and blurbs, but they are surely not proposing to extend the 1,440-minute day, do by “more” do they mean fuller or freer time?  Is time saved when  we manage to leave it empty, or when we stuff it with multiple activities, useful or pleasant?  Does time-saving  mean getting more done?  If so, does daydreaming save time or waste it?  What about talking on a cellular phone at the beach?  Is time saved when we seize it away from a low-satisfaction activity, like ironing clothes, and turn it over to a high-satisfaction activity, like listening to music?  What if we do both at once?  If you can choose between a thirty-minute train ride, during which you can read, and a twenty-minute drive, during which you cannot, does the drive save ten minutes?  Does it make sense to say what it saves ten minutes from your travel budget while removing ten minutes from your reading budget?  What if you can listen to that audiotape after all?  Are you saving time, or employing time that you have saved elsewhere, if you learn “how to have a 48-hour day” or “how to get 65 minutes out of every hour”?

These questions have no answer.  They depend on a concept that is ill-formed:  the very idea of time-saving.  The first dictionaries to recognize time-saving as a word, barely a century ago, defined it as “prompt” or “expeditious” or expedient.”  In a slow world, a time-saving device made an unpleasant task – washing clothes, perhaps — pass faster.   Now we live in a faster world.  Our time has different layers.  It might seem that to save time means to preserve it, spare it, free it from some activity that might otherwise have consumed it in the hot flames of busy-ness.  Yet time saving books are constantly admonishing people to do things.  Some of there commended time-savers replace pleasant pastimes with less pleasant, for minutes or seconds.  Some spare us a chore that was passing almost unnoticed in the background of our lives and replace it with a task that grabs more of our foreground attention.  Saving time is a complex mission.  Some of us say we want to save time when really we just want to do more.  To leave time free, it is necessary to decide… to leave time free.  It might be simplest to recognize that there is time — however much time and we make choices about how to spend it, how to spare it, how to use it, and how to fill it.