The Quickening

“Practice not-doing,

And everything will fall into place.” Tao Te Ching, #3

As the world hums along on its ever-quickening pace I often wonder, is time speeding up, or is it just me? No one disagrees that just in the last century our world, its economy, populations, and technologies have advanced at an increasing rate. How often to we take time to stop and smell the roses anymore? Multi-tasking has now become routine and many see idle time as wasteful or unproductive. This value is a relic of the Protestant work ethic; some say it’s what has made our country unique. Certainly it has fueled our leadership in many scientific and technological fields, though the decline of moral values and the increase in violence and fraud – including war – seem to be the dark side of this obsessive-compulsive tendency.

James Gleick wrote a book called Faster in which he describes the accelerated pace of everyday experience over the course of the ‘manic’ 20th century – from so-called ‘hurry sickness’ (waiting anxiety) to automatic appliances, express mail, speed-dialing, the internet, and a general increase in type-A personality flaws that cause people expect fast service and are rude or impatient when it’s not. Time is money, believes this over-worked society with busy schedules and demands for instant gratification. Our stress levels have increased to match this quickening pace and it’s making many of us sick. Future shock” and “information fatigue syndrome” are two terms created to describe this phenomenon.

But is time actually speeding up? Most people will tell you, it only seems that way as you get older, as each increment of our lives become ever smaller parts of an increasing whole. An hour seemed like an eternity when we were five; at fifty, it seems to go by in a flash. Or maybe it’s what we’re doing with that hour; waiting for a bus can seem eternal, but while having fun with friends, time seems to fly. One is reminded of Einstein’s theory of relativity; time passes slower the faster you travel. It doesn’t matter much to those of us without the opportunity to swing through space at the speed of light; however, it is known that our solar system itself is traveling through the galaxy at dizzying speeds, and that the universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate. Could this be influencing our world in ways we’ve not yet imagined?

Terrence McKenna admits, “It has become a cliché of modern parlance and journalism that time is speeding up, that history is moving faster and faster.” He suggests “we have entirely misunderstood the character of time”, and believes we are “…on a collision course with a temporal vortex of some sort…wrapping ourselves around a cosmic endpoint of some sort.” Montalk suggests there is a shift from 3D to 4D in which “linear time is giving way to nonlinear time…with a shift in priorities, trivialities fade into a repeating background pattern while spiritual events (leaps in awareness and maturity) increase in their frequency and novelty, both of which lead to the perception that time is speeding up for different reasons.” Others such as 2012 Unlimited suggest humanity is going through a shift in consciousness and that time is actually speeding up as we enter a new era. Some like Gregg Braden believe the Schumann resonance (like the Earth’s heartbeat) is increasing in frequency, causing us to experience the equivalent of 16 hours in a day instead of 24. Skeptics debate this view. Interesting to note the earth’s rotation is actually slowing down, causing scientists to add an extra “leap” second to our atomic clocks last year.

In response to this increasingly complicated and hurried way of life, some are making an effort to slow down. Wikipedia has a page on the Slow Movement, an attempt to slow down the pace and savor the good things in life. Check out, funded by ‘the international institute of not doing much.” Or how about the Slow Society, created as an alternative to the short-sightedness of a fast-paced society. I appreciate the sentiments – but what a shame we need to be reminded. As for myself, I continue to struggle with the expectations of this frantic world. For the first time in my life, this past year or two, I’ve had the luxury of staying at home, and I never hear the end of the questions, “what are you doing with your time? what do you do all day? what do you do to keep busy?” As if sitting on my porch enjoying the Hawaiian sunset isn’t enough. It’s tough to Surf the Tao in today’s world – but at least I have the words of Lao Tzu to comfort me. True wisdom seems foolish, remember.

“Therefore the Master acts without doing anything.” – #2