By Andrew Ryan Duckworth
Everything moves fast nowadays. Virtue stopped by and wanted its patience back. Fast cars, fast food, fast process. Quick education moving from station to station. Things just aren't fast enough for us. We want it now and right now! Speed up, or you'll be left behind. Whoever said "good things come to those who wait" was too slow. Even our leisure time is spent in a rush. Quick rest, quick read, quick break. We need to have all of the answers in an instant Now that our phones handle that work for us. I remember when things weren't as fast. Everything was just a millisecond slower. Now, we push for faster. Move faster! Faster science! Faster Art! Faster content! Training? Can't do the job, find something else! Faster internet! Faster traffic signals! Faster life! Faster death. We are a convertible going 100 down an already crowded freeway And the slightest turn of the wheel could lead to our end.
Now that more optimistic days are behind us, why not after all? Why not race towards an inevitable end? We’ve already started, after all. And if we don’t finish the race, we’re quitters, right?… In a lot of ways, there is a lot still to be learned from that old children’s story, The Tortoise and the Hare. Of course, with that story, neither were racing for their life. The hare, having a reputation to keep, speeds along the path, eventually, thinking that it has the race won, stopping to take a rest. We know the rest of the story.
There is something to be said about a quiet life away from civilization. If I was guaranteed all of the money I would ever need to survive, I would have little hesitation in moving as far from civilization as humanly possibly… which is barely possible anymore. We have given our lives and our souls over to technology. At this point, it is hard to imagine what humanity might be like without a screen in front of them, whether it be phones, a laptop, the biggest flatscreen with the best picture… and of course, there is that rather pesky problems of machines gradually replacing jobs left and right, even in a time when people are struggling to find jobs, struggling to pay rent, and struggling in general because of the pandemic.
Trust me. The situational irony of me typing this on a laptop and probably sharing it on social media, which is a whole other conversation entirely (I could write books on my grievances), is not lost on me. But there is no such world anymore where someone who loves writing, someone who loves sharing their writing with others, can manage such a task without technology. At this point, it is a bit hard to imagine how writers like Dickens, Tennyson, Emerson or Thoreau ever managed to share their writing. That is how separated we are. While it is no doubt that many aspects of this are positive, the negative of it seems to be a low hanging wall cloud. Many never consider how much time they spend in front of a screen, a thing that tears us away from the natural world and paints a pretty fantasy. It has become a drug, something that gives us enough of a hallucination to function in a world that seems to be more and more brutally against humanity by the day. And we squabble, my how we squabble, over the pettiest nonsense because one person doesn’t say things the way that we may prefer, or perhaps they are politically opposed to us. Rather than having the difficult conversations, person-to-person, which are still possible amid a pandemic given proper safety precautions, we get into arguments over the internet, a place where most context is lost by default. All the while, our data is stolen from us, sold to God only knows who, and we wonder why Google seems to know exactly what we are going to search for, exactly what to show us, and exactly how to keep us coming back. So does Facebook, although through different means. Such is the nature of algorithms, that chemical that keeps the drug operating the way it needs to, and the theft of our data which should belong to us.
There is, of course, the argument that it would be nearly impossible to get through this pandemic without these things and I absolutely agree. By the time this pandemic came around, we had already become fixated on our screens. And there is even more of an argument that technology is keeping us safer. Were some individuals not glued to their technology, they would be fixated on mingling, on close communication, etc., something that is not advisable (or legal depending on where you live) given the state of things.
It prompts the question of what folks did when faced with a pandemic in the early 1900’s. They obviously had not given themselves completely over to technology. I’m inclined to believe, to an extent, they had healthier habits and hobbies: reading, writing, painting, drawing… creativity. I wonder if they felt that their world was rapidly racing towards an end as well. If anything, possibly more so. But what is undeniable is that we have been racing towards our own end for some time. While technology itself is not bad, in the wrong hands, it absolutely can be. And while I have no doubt that those who currently operate services such as social media, etc. have no bad intentions stored in their heart, the truth is that many of these things that we have come to cling to are tearing us apart. We have gone from loving to hating, from forgiving to condemning, from asking profound questions to seeking any and all answers. The worst aspect to all of it is that we have gone from caring to not caring at all. The very things that were designed to make us more connected, to bring us closer, have been eating at our souls ever since we allowed them to. Were these things not addictions, I would have to say that it would be entirely our fault. But they are designed to keep us coming back and back and back again. Psychologically, very few of us have the control necessary to break away from these aspects of today.
I by no means consider myself some sort of spiritual guru, I’m no priest, no bishop, no pastor. I am, however, deeply, however unconventionally, religious. I study religious texts, read the great authors of religious writings, explore the Bible and ancient traditions. Yet, I’m not a strict literalist. I’m convinced that there are elements of God’s power of creation that we were never meant to comprehend, and that would have been the case for those who wrote creation stories as well. As to Heaven and Hell, I’m more convinced in their reality now than I ever have been before. Hell, it is a place we see far too often when we see racism, when we see figures of power cling to their power through immoral means, when we see chaos, corruption… This poem is about more than humanity’s selling of its soul to technology. This poem is about how we seem to be completely uninterested in slowing down, even for things that are simple to slow down for. It is about how fast we want everything nowadays, about our impatience. It is about how we are sprinting to Hell and we are happy about it. Technology is our god, constructed by humanity to satisfy us. It is about how demanding we have become, how hateful we have become, how degrading we have become. No longer are we satisfied by profound experiences such as visiting the Grand Canyon or seeing the desert of Utah or witnessing the Giant Redwoods in California. After all, we can see all of that on our iPhone, right? We’re so concerned by what comes next, and after that, that we just… don’t have time. Perhaps we aren’t sprinting to Hell. Perhaps we have already arrived and the speed at which we demand everything is our dissatisfaction spiraling out of control.
This writing is the work of its author, Andrew Ryan Duckworth, and can in no way be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any form without request from the author.