This afternoon I was driving back from Pennsylvania through the Delaware Water Gap. As I was driving, I listened to the audio version of a biography on Teddy Roosevelt (I’m really cool). As I listened to the stories of events that happened a century ago, it started me thinking about my surroundings. The Delaware Water Gap is a marvel of nature that makes the one hundred year space between Teddy and I seem like a millisecond. I wondered, where are we going in such a hurry?
The pace of almost everything seems to be skyrocketing upward. For example travel: in little over one hundred years, we’ve gone from walking, riding horses and trains to cars to planes to supersonic jets to hyper-loops (Elon Musk). The pace is not limited to travel. It affects technology, communication, commerce and change.
As we move at this speed, it seems that in many ways the world is getting smaller. We can get to a place in three hours that used to take several days. We can communicate with someone on the other side of the world instantaneously. While this speed is a great advantage in many respects, it does rob us of the details that life has to offer. At 65 MPH the river and the mountains are a moving backdrop to a functional carnival ride. Having hiked the trails in the Gap, I know there’s a large stream that empties into the river. My kids have played on the moss covered stones and tickled their toes with the crisp clear water. You can’t get there traveling at 65 MPH. You need to slow down, stop the car and get out to walk. Speed is efficient but is it effective?
The underlying thought that keeps coming back to me is, where are we going in such a hurry? If our destination is new frontiers that we’ve never seen then I’m fully in favor. If we are trying to get to McDonald’s before they stop serving breakfast, then I wonder if we’ve missed something. If we are on the web or our phones to extract new ideas from thought leaders that we’d never get the chance to meet in real life, then the price of our data package is worth it. If we are re-watching the same youtube video of the kitten playing the piano 100 times, then the price is too high. Inventions are intended to enhance our experiences and not rob them from us.
As we move faster and the world gets smaller, I hope that we take time to truly experience life. Use the technology that you have as a key to open doors rather than a chain to lock you down. If you have a device in your pocket that can contact almost anyone you choose, use it to tell someone something of substance. Don’t text them a message that says nothing. Our lives should be filled with experiences that make it worth the while. Blurring those experiences with speed and efficiency may get us more experience but it will be more blurriness.
“Quality or Quantity. Don’t tell me they’re the same!” – Greg Graffin
Go out and experience!