The Great Race
I am concerned.
Everyday the world seems to be spinning faster and I am afraid that the centrifugal force may soon randomly eject me into space. I am also worried about what will happen if I personally try and adjust the speed. Will I get trampled by the passing masses?
In previous stories I have addressed my need to slow down and step back and enjoy the little things in life. But today I want to talk about the importance of patience in our “instant nation”.
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” (Saint Augustine)
I work with busy, anxious teenagers and the allure of rapid-fire technology is a constant temptation. The pace of this thirsty, instant gratification seeking, multi-tasking generation is exhausting and is making me feel my age! Can you imagine if they had to wait for the tubes to warm up on a black and white TV before a grainy picture even appeared and then to have to actually get up off the couch to turn off the set when the test pattern came on at midnight? What would they do if they picked up the receiver of a clunky black rotary phone and heard a conversation in progress and realized that they needed to wait their turn because it was a “party line”?
What about the rush at meal time? As a child I was very excited with the advent of the Swanson TV dinner. It was one of the first at home convenience foods that I remember which came pre-prepared on a tiny aluminum tray with nifty compartments for the four different dinner items. But, it had to be warmed up in a conventional oven for about 25 minutes. The microwave oven came later. Would this generation be able to wait for this delicious Salisbury steak dinner and the little brownie square?
What are we in a hurry for? How are we spending the saved minutes? How does a child develop delayed or deferred gratification if the waves keep crashing on the shore? There is a “drive-thru” for food, for cash, for beer, for prescriptions. Speed dating is available in many urban areas for those who do not have enough time to socialize and then one can go to Las Vegas and get married without getting out of the car, just beep the horn and drive into the sunset in wedded bliss. I saw the ultimate idea for saving time in the newspaper a few years ago. It was a “drive-thru” funeral parlor. Open caskets of loved ones were slightly tilted under soft lighting and displayed in a large picture window while soothing music was piped out on loud speakers to the mourners in their passing cars. How sad! We rush past one another in life, and then we can’t even take the time to say goodbye at the end!
“ A man who is a master of patience is master of everything.” (George Savile)
In some ways I view technology as an enabler. Its fancy packaging convinces us that faster is better. 3G…4G…high-speed Wi-Fi ….what will be next? The horse is already out of the barn and we can’t turn back the wheels of progress. But can we at least pull back the reins once in a while?
When a student wants my attention in class, often there is an outspoken demand, even when my focus is elsewhere. I calmly say, “Please be patient, I will be with you when I am finished”. The typical impatient response is, “But I just want ….NOW.” If his or her need is not met within 2 minutes of the initial request, another, louder requisition erupts. If the second demand is not met with satisfaction, the interest has passed and “click” I am turned off by their imaginary remote control.
Google found that 1 in 4 people abandon a web page that takes more than 4 seconds to load. 50% of mobile users leave a page if it doesn’t load in 10 seconds. Where is the patience? Fingers are too busy.
USA Today did a survey and found out that most of America would not wait in line for more than 15 minutes for anything. One-half of those surveyed would not return to an establishment that kept them waiting and 1 in 5 admitted to being rude to someone serving them slowly. Oh great, there goes the manners too! ( I will save that issue for another story)
I have embraced some of the technology and honestly appreciate some of the time saving devices that I have. I can get a meal on the table faster with a microwave oven and I love the instant spell check on my computer. I have an iPad and I appreciate the way that the internet can spread my stories to all of my friends with one click. I am glad that I do not have to share the phone line with 3 other families. But I worry about losing the personal moments and taking the time to be patient with one another. I wonder how we are going to build up our tolerance and develop perseverance if there is always an exit button. Maybe we should all take the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow Experiment and find out what our ability is to wait in order to obtain something that we want. What exactly is our will power and level of self-control and patience? What do you think yours would be?
Like the advertisement says, “life comes at you fast” so what’s the rush? Yes, you can chose the pace of your own life, but allow your neighbor to do the same. Be patient with one another, we will all get to the finish line and then the great race will be over.