A Cautionary Tale
At my book club meeting last night, we were discussing Fahrenheit 451 and several people mentioned the frenetic pace of the writing and how it made the story difficult to read. And I sat there listening to the discussion (well, listening and drinking beer; we did meet at a pub after all), thinking, what frenetic pace? What are these people talking about? And then it hit me. I’m moving so much faster than the writing of this book that I didn’t even notice.
As I was reading the book, I was struck by how well it captured some of the fast pace of today, even though it was written in 1953. In the story, people don’t have time for conversations or to appreciate flowers. They’re too busy going 200 miles an hour. It’s a cleverly designed system, built to keep you from critical thinking. You can get arrested for being a pedestrian. Walking is just way too slow. And books are definitely out. (Reading about the books being burned was so painful to read, I cannot even fully describe it. Don’t burn the books!)
But the story didn’t capture today entirely, right? Sure, we move fast, but look! We’re online, having conversations. Reading. Thinking critically. Well, to a point. I’m a big multitasker. I’m really good at it. I can do and keep track of all kinds of things at once. My brain operates best in a multithreaded environment. But lately I’ve noticed that as I go through my feeds, I’m not really reading anything. Sometimes, I keep a particularly interesting post as new so I can go back and read it later. But when is later? What kind of sense does it make to file someway away to read later while I’m supposed to be reading it?
Sometimes, when I feel like I have a little more time, I open everything I find interesting in tabs. Thank God for Session Manager. Because when I have four browser windows, each with 20 tabs open, and then my computer crashes, life would be pretty sad without it.
I dream of an organization system that helps me sort through all of this and keep track of it. I know that lots of such systems are out there. And if I had some of that elusive time, I could check a few of them out.
I was reading this NY Times article about how we’re all too busy to notice we’re busy. And while I initially mistrust it because it was written by someone who admits to having time for reading, movies, and lunch, it does reveal some truth. I’m not sure about being busy to feel important. That would require an amount of calculation that I just don’t have time for. But a rotary dial phone? Can you imagine waiting for that dial? (What? We were supposed to think he was a little crazy? I was sympathizing!) The article suggests evaluating priorities and figuring out what matters. Which, of course, also requires that non-existent time. I barely had time to read the article.
But I’m glad I took the time, as it served as a cautionary tale I’m taking to heart. I’m so avoiding rotary dial phones.