Jack, be nimble ... Jack, be quick. Jack, jump over the candle stick!
What is the effect on you when you recite this?
It makes me jumpy, unable to concentrate.
It makes me jumpy, unable to concentrate.
In an interview with CBC this morning, a political scientist used the word nimble. It was in the context of the US constitution having been designed to create gridlock, a situation that forces hot headed political opponents to slow down, discuss, and reach compromises. He was saying that this might not be such a good thing in today's world of instant communication, a world in which swift decisions are being made by impatient up-and-coming nations like India, China and Brazil. Our world, the one that always waited for the US behemoth before acting, is changing. The US president and his Democrats, now that conservative forces have so successfully changed the political scene, may not be nimble enough to make decisions quickly.
In the seventies when I was in university I needed to see something from a personal point of view in order to understand the bigger picture. I needed to imagine how a law would affect me. I needed to empathize. It is hard to do that when you are talking about whole nations, about numbers. It is the reason that I made the decision to do my degree in English instead of political science, even though I loved both.
Now I find myself moving in the opposite direction: starting from the concept of a country and going from that to my own small reality. I too am often immobilized by gridlock. Sometimes I feel as if I no longer govern my life. Like the US constitution, my mind is no longer nimble enough to make snap decisions. And I too live in a world where things move far too quickly.
I don't like being battered by several demands for my attention.
When I write I do so in silence.
I find too many simultaneous images distracting. My limit is movie sub-titles and it is hard to knit even then. If I owned a television I would likely mask the bottom part of the screen so that I would not be distracted by those coloured headlines that scroll beneath the news reportage and film coverage.
I find many websites truly annoying because it is impossible to concentrate my attention.
I am saved from Facebook and Twitter by being forced geographically to endure a dial-up connection.
Our whole world seems to have speeded up and left me behind.
And you know what ... I don't think it is an improvement over the slower pace that used to prevail.
Is it really that important to hear something immediately?
Do we need instantaneous reactions or could we wait for thoughtful coverage of world events?
Do teenagers really need to be so connected that they cannot ignore a cell phone or a text message while driving?
I once saw a young Toronto woman answer her calls during a VSO interview day. Not only was it inconsiderate because VSO works with whole groups of candidates on these days, but it definitely worked against her. How could someone so dependent on instant communication manage two years of living and working in the low tech world inhabited by VSO volunteers?
And maybe that's part of my discomfort. Not only do I feel that we need time to reflect in order to make sound decisions and to be healthy human beings, but I think that many people who have no technical know-how at all, just plain, common sense, practical knowledge, are living fuller lives than those of us who are more connected. They don't spend a third of their lives in front of a small screen. They are the people who will survive in a disaster because they know how to live with very little. They are the people who can manage without electricity and computers. They can make fires, build shelters, grow and find food ... and write with pens to record the experiences.
They are the people who will create communities because they already know how to interact with real people in real time in real places.
And maybe all this is simply the foolish rambling of a seventy year old woman who has chosen a much slower life style and who complains but really prefers the speed of dial-up, the challenges of power outages and the enforced isolation of snow blocked roads. Maybe it is simply the squeaking of an old.country mouse who who lives more reflectively now that she is less nimble.