The local Public Broadcasting System is running a special on Simon & Garfunkle. Among that esteemed group’s greatest hits is a song that has the line, “Slow down, you move too fast…”
Last night, I spent a few hours with an old friend of mine gazing up at the stars while we were on a camping trip. The Milky Way was clearly visible as he found and aimed his telescope at the intergalactic wonders of M81, M82 (aka The Cigar Galaxy), M13, M51 (aka The Whirlpool Galaxy), M27 (aka The Dumbbell Nebula), and M57 (The Ring Nebula).
It took quite a while to locate, aim the telescope and find the objects of our desire, but my friend was diligent and found every one. He even impressed the park rangers who came by to “check up on us”.
My pace just before this new school year begins is supposed to be picking up. It has every other year since I started teaching 32 years ago. I really should be getting up to speed! “Getting up to speed” is a common aphorism in the Industrialized World in which roughly one in ten of us live.
But what speed are we supposed to be “getting up to”? The cell phones, wireless laptops, microwaves, email, radio, Twitter, Google-Plus, television, FaceBook, and skyping ALL operate at 300,000 kilometers per second; the speed of electromagnetic energy – the speed of light. Is it conceivable for your average student, business person, factory worker, security guard, executive assistant, bank manager, NYSE trader, president of the United States – heck even Stephen Hawking or David Brin to REALLY “get up to [this] speed” any time this week? This year? This lifetime? This aeon?
I hereby tender that it is NOT possible.
Not only is it impossible for a Human of any sort to “get up to speed” because the electronic gizmos we’re supposed to catch up to operate at the speed of light, it is ultimately deadly to even try. I don’t need to iterate the ancillary problems “getting up to speed” has created that expresses itself as increased stress. No need to point out that the number one killer of teenagers in the US is “accidents”, a frightening number of which occur while these teens are trying to get up to the speed of light that we elders believe they should be at.
In 1984, I wrote a science fiction poem (and updated it for here). It was rejected so many times that my future as a poet was crushed. But I offer it to you (for free!) below, because it speaks to me in my present state of mind, and it might speak to some of you as well:
i don’t stop and look at the stars anymore,
i read sky and telescope and astronomy instead.
i don’t imagine life in space anymore,
i read analog and the journal of exobiology (http://www.esciencecentral.org/journals/exobiology.php) instead.
perhaps I should renew
to the stars
I contend that if we refuse to slow down, we will both fail to consider and increasingly risk the real world we (republicans, democrats, libertarians, green parties, communists, constitutionalists, and independents) live in.