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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Speed of Life 

You know how sometimes the completely obvious strikes you in a funny way, and things can seem rather odd? Today I was struck by the speed of our lives, and have got to thinking about it, and how we all relate. At work, part of what we do is to help people keep up with ever-more-swiftly-advancing technology and standards; a major reason I started this blog was to help myself keep up with the tide of scientific research.

Ferris Bueller said, "Life Moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while...you could miss it," and today I did just that. I woke up late and as I emerged from my apartment to go to the gym, I saw that it was absolutely gorgeous out, not raining as I’d expected. Armed with this information, I went back inside, changed out of my gym clothes and into civvies and walking shoes; I’m not about to waste this day in the fluorescent light and climate control of a gym! I walked for a couple hours, heading mostly south because that’s the direction that got the most sun on my face, and came upon a Potbelly, where I stopped for lunch. An unimpressive sandwich and completely worthless pickle* (*for which they charge extra!) later, I resolved not to go there again and walked on. A while later I found myself sitting on the patio in front of Cyberstop with a (plastic) glass of iced tea. I sat in the sun, reading and sometimes looking up to watch the freakshow of 17th street walk by, until the sun angled away from my seat.

Thoroughly relaxed, I wandered home to cook a comfort-food dinner – spaghetti and meatballs. I cooked slowly, letting the sauce simmer longer than usual and sipping an aperitif, keeping with the flow of the day. I even set a proper place for myself on my table in front of the TV; living alone, I find I almost always eat with the TV on; it’s a pale distant substitute for conversation, but better than eating in silence. The only thing on TV of interest (I use the term loosely here) was Queer Eye, so I settled in for makeover, uhm, magic. Have you ever noticed that the “fab five” runs everywhere? None of the gay guys I know rush around like that – if they did they might not be so perpetually tardy! Queer Eye crashed through my languid evening, running and screaming (that part is at least in keeping with many boys I know) about, rushing through everything. I shudder to think about the quality and durability of any home décor done so quickly.

They cook too fast too – great food not only takes time, but that’s part of the joy of it. I made my spaghetti with pasta from a box and Ragu (heavily altered, of course), but it still took well over an hour to prepare. I could have moved faster – used higher heat, timed the pasta-boiling more precisely, etc., but why? Simmering the sauce slowly over a low flame, tasting and contemplating after each shake or drop of seasoning added, makes cooking a contemplative, relaxing and highly satisfying process. I started with an oversweet, flavorless and poorly textured marinara and transformed it into a rich, complex and if I do say so myself superb tomato sauce. And the dawdling pace added another dimension to the experience.

But the rest of the world rushed to interrupt my calm, dragging me (kicking and screaming, of course) back to reality. We spend our lives running, stressed out and off balance, like we’re just seeing how long we can keep it up. I often don’t get on well at work because I work slowly: I take three hours to accomplish a task my boss thinks should take one, but the thing he doesn’t focus on is he’s thinking in terms of having to go back and revise it four times, I don’t want to have to do that more than once. “Haste makes waste,” they say. It’s funny how we can hear a cliché like that a hundred times a day, and even say it ourselves, but then forget it anyway. I wonder how much more we could all accomplish if we worried less about handing in the draft on time and more about getting it right the first time?

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