Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Nimble:   such an old fashioned word, but exactly right in certain contexts ...

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.

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 mouse who  who lives more reflectively now that she is less nimble.


Barbara Carlson said...

When 9/11 happened and war cries were heard non-stop, John [my partner] said, "What the government should do is -- nothing."

Just wait & reflect on why 1/5 of the world hates America and smiled when it happened.
(See Reluctant Fundamentalist book).

What an admirable country that would have been! What misery uninflicted, what national wealth preserved. But no -- bomb the (the wrong ones as it turned out) bastards! I fear Iran is next in their sites. The only adult in Washington seems to be Obama and even then he was suckered into Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires.

As a dying empire, The American People are flailing and showing signs of mental unbalance. Did you see Jon Stewart's sanity rally speech? Know hope... Another adult worth supporting. I can send you the text.

Sigh. And now the election results I cannot even look at.

As American Isaac Asimov said,

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"

As for slowing down, I agree. The average teenager sends 40 text messages an hour. How do they have time to do anything else? But they apparently think texting is the same thing as talking face to face. How starved for contact they must be.

When people ask me, "So, you busy?" Like busy-ness is a virtue. I say no, that's no way to live. Attend, people, attend. You can't do that multi-tasking.

Barbara Carlson said...

And by "government" it should read America!
Cretien was brave and right not to get Canada involved.

Oma said...

Heartfelt, thoughtful response, Barbara. Thank you.

kingmisha said...

You write so well Oma. More often than not, you write what I'm thinking. Strawberries are perfection.

Nowhere am I more at peace than in the studio with my hands molding and shaping clay. It is a very primordial experience. There is something so elemental about bringing life out of a lump of muck. That same sense of eternity is present when I'm digging in my garden.

I too try not to be busy. Busy means fragmentation to me and that undermines my serenity.

Maybe that's what the Book of Genesis really means. Its not about the perils of knowledge but the risks of life and learning from failure.

Oma said...

Maybe all old folks think as we do ... Barbara and Kingmisha ... slowly ... reflectively ... not so nimbly.

I was intrigued by the idea you put forward about Genesis ... likely written by someone with years and years to discover that truth!