Time is a crucial factor in life. It is not infinite; rather it is the unknown definite of all lives. Life is an opportunity to discover one’s livelihood, to connect with nature and to learn about anything. It is to be human. The qualities of human nature have been encroached upon. Modern society has greatly sped up life, emphasizing the importance of efficiency, being goal-oriented, and to pack, as much into one’s daily life as possible. This sense of heightened efficiency has led to more tasks and responsibilities, greater development and production, and the decline in the use of the human body as a machine (mind included). The unfortunate effect of a fast-forwarded society is the loss of the appreciation of the world, the personal connections between people and nature, as well as the loss of awareness of the value of experience. Robert Updegraff stated, “To get all there is out of living, we must employ our time wisely, never being in too much of a hurry to stop and sip life, but never losing our sense of the enormous value of a minute.” This ideal of balance has been lost. The value of a single minute has diminished; minutes are lost in the need to get from A to B without stopping to take in everything surrounding those minutes. Writers like John Schwiebert, Rebecca Solnit, Barbara Kingsolver, and Hafiz agree that life is more valuable when spent in a manner than remains true to human nature, while utilizing the body and mind to enjoy the moments that the fast world zooms passed. A balance between responsibility and livelihood must be achieved, also. Modern technology and transportation are useful, but they have demeaned the value of time and empowered speed; human experiences should not rely on the modern tools, rather the tools should be secondary to the experience. The use of time is better spent on a path that allows for sensual experiences that maintains the connection between a person’s livelihood and nature.
The time that comprises life should not be squeezed for every extra minute; in contrast, it is important to breath in the experiences, one at a time, allowing the mind and body to feel the experience. Life is made up of tiny moments that connect to make sense of existence, but with the speed of time accelerated due to modern technologies and transportation, experience has become less meaningful. There must be a balance between “real time” (the clock that always runs) and “our time” (the clock that we create through experience). John Schwiebert discusses the idea of the use of time in his essay, “Coda: Literature, So What?” by explaining the loss of time due to modern society, as well as the types of time experienced. He says that kronos is the time that is “quantifiable” while kairos time is ‘the time actually experienced” (Schwiebert 1139).Furthermore, he mentions that kronos time “dictates to us” reminding us of life that exists on a clock, but kairos time is within our control – these are the moments that we choose to experience (1139-40). Maintaining a balance between kronos and kairos will help stave off the affects of modern society on human experience and the interpersonal connection with nature.
The advances in society, particularly those that have oversimplified life (transportation, mass production, technology, etc.) are supportive to our want of discovery and increasing our options within life. However, these advances have severed us from our habitat and decreased the likelihood of engaging in activities linked to human nature. The advances in transportation, for example, have increased the distances covered and decreased the time of travel; however, it has lessened the enjoyment of the time spent traveling. Therefore, the emphasis is on quantity and not quality. Quicker travel is lessening the value placed upon the natural experiences. Travel is about experiencing all of the simplistic moments of the journey, not solely the destination. Once that connection with nature is forfeited for efficiency, then the quality of travel declines. Schwiebert agrees stating that traveling at a slower pace (he mentions horse and carriage) one has the opportunity to have “conversations” and to enjoy the “scenery” and even the ability to stop to eat lunch in the perfect spot (1136). He argues all of these cannot be done while flying by jet, nor do we think about doing so when driving a car (1136). The connection with nature is no longer as important as the amount of time that it takes to get somewhere, but it should be. The lack of appreciation for the natural world is what is being erased with the advances of efficient transportation. The lack of natural surroundings has decreased the sensation of travel. Instead of backpacking over the Sierra Nevada’s, we are stuck in an airport for two hours doing nothing that appeases the soul. Schwiebert contends that the efficiency of travel is boring and “completely joyless” compared to hiking six miles in the woods (1137).
Along with more sedentary occupations, transportation has not only devalued the experience of the journey, it has changed the meaning of the human body. Before cars, airplanes, industrialization, and the transition from farm town to metropolis, the human body was a computer and a tool. Instead of relying on our bodies to do the work, we rely on tools that power machines to do the work. Rebecca Solnit, author of “The Disembodiment of Everyday Life,” expands on Schwiebert’s idea, discussing the ramifications of advanced travel of the awareness of time and space, plus the decline of the body as a tool. The most prominent point that she mentions is the disadvantages of the automobile. She states that, “people think they need- the machines” and this leads to the loss of using our body, which further disconnects us from our livelihood and nature (547). Transportation makes life too easy; the lack of work turns a human into a lazy person. Solnit looks at the car as a “prosthetic” too (547). She notes many instances in her daily life where she sees people wait in a parking lot for the closest spot to the store or a man getting angry because he claimed he could walk faster than the trolley went (548). It is as though people are not willing to experience the feeling of traveling by foot. Both of these examples prove that many view walking as leisure rather than a system to transport us from one location to another. The “mental radius” for how far somebody is willing to walk is “shrinking” (547). The body is no longer looked at as a tool, but a playground that relies on tools to be entertained, as well as to function properly.
As our lives become more sedentary, we must find alternate methods to keep our bodies from wasting away (due to lack of physical activity). Gyms and equipment have been designed to work out the muscles that were once used in everyday life. Without the use of free weights, the muscles in the body would experience atrophy. Unfortunately, these tools have helped separate the gap between man and nature. For example, the treadmill is used to stimulate walking or running, an action that can still be performed outdoors, but for many people it takes place on a treadmill. The treadmill eliminates the purpose of our legs, of walking. Another point that Solnit makes is that the treadmill might have once been a place to shield us from the weather, but it has now become a habitual place to exercise (552). The treadmill had greatened the separation between the body and nature, “walking is no longer contemplating, courting, or exploring” it “is the alternate movement if the lower limbs” (552). Walking is now a chore, not something that we use to get somewhere or to philosophize. All of that is done indoors, somewhere else.
Likewise, modern technology dramatically sways human nature through the disconnection of man from the natural world, corrupting interpersonal relationships, and creating a sense of instant gratification. As the time of the world speeds up, the need to be amused in a minimal period accelerates as well. Among the many devices that contribute to the aforementioned issues, the television, the cell phone, and the portable music player are the most influential. Television disconnects people from the natural world as well as providing instantaneous entertainment. There are many great things on television these days (History Channel, Discovery Channel), but most people are not watching the educational television. Television is an outlet for visual images that excite people, while avoiding images and thoughts that depict life as it truly is. The essay, “The One-Eyed Monster and Why I Don’t Let Him In,” by Barbara Kingsolver explores the need to skip the television to have a more experiential life. Kingsolver argues that it is okay to maintain a balance between kronos time by reading the newspaper but “television news is driven by compelling visuals, not by the intrinsic importance of the story being cast” (1072). Exploring the world firsthand can help form a better idea of what the world truly is and what it has to offer, rather than trusting an actor reading a script. The television eliminates the need to explore the outside world because one can turn on the television and experience it from the couch. Plus, the desire to be entertained in this exact moment further separates the natural world from the grasp of our finger tips because it provide a more subtle experience. Kingsolver expresses that “the world is a much wider place than seventeen inches” (1072).
The cell phone and the personal music player contribute to the destruction of interpersonal relationships. Although the cell phone mobilizes communication, the texting feature is becoming a predominant over calling the person. The lack of actual face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication can hurt the relationship, as well as destroy a person’s ability to determine somebody’s mood (through tone of voice). In Jane Read’s, “Are we losing the Personal touch?” she reasons that technologies like cell phones, email, and media players have a dramatic impact on human relationships. For example, she points out (referencing to texting), “Words are delivered in stark black and white, without any awareness of tone of voice, gestures or interpretation of body language” (Read 2). Communication is crucial to human survival and should not be sacrificed for means of time. Relationships with others improve the quality of life and it gives us another’s perspective on the same experiences.
Furthermore, the personal music player isolates one from other people, and from interacting with the surroundings of the natural world. Headphones blaring music of whatever kind tune out the sounds, visuals, and exciting experience of walking downtown in a bustling crowd or listening to the sounds of a forest trail. The ability to have sensual experiences diminishes by plugging into a device that single-handedly drowns out the possibility of a natural experience. Many have come to rely on a device such as this to pass the time or to avoid having to converse with strangers (Read 2). By doing so, one misses the opportunity to get in touch with the natural world (sounds, people, etc.) which can expand the mind. The idea of new experience is avoided rather than approached with an open mind.
Amidst modern society and all of the pressures against living in a natural world, it is important to find a balance that does not rely on the tools that deviate from our natural instincts. Barbara Kingsolver and Rebecca Solnit offer solutions to live a fulfilling life without the tools and gadgets commonly relied on in everyday life. Kingsolver suggests reading versus watching television because a “competent reader can cover three to five times that much material” in a one hour television script (1071). Reading can be done outside as well as indoors, giving people the chance to take a long stroll and sit under a big tree to read about ancient history instead of watching the television. The approach takes more time, but living a life full of creative experience can be more exciting than speeding through a program on ancient history (Gardner 14). The latter does not allow the mind to develop images of the history, something that is crucial to happiness. In addition, Kingsolver does not ban watching movies in her household. She likes the idea of controlling her VCR rather than it controlling her (in respect to what she watches) (1073). By placing limitations on the tools of modern technology, one has the opportunity to experience life in nature or doing hobbies that require the use if the mind.
On the other hand, Solnit presses people to take advantage of their bodies as tools and use them to experience the space of the natural world. Solnit encourages people to walk as the ancient philosophers of the time have because it is then that we use our minds the most. Walking is the natural tool of the human body. Although many cannot walk to work, many can walk to a bus or a trolley. Utilizing public transportation will get people out of the car and into the world that provides many experiences(Fraschini 14). It is understandable that many must exercise because careers do not involve physical activity, yet one must reconsider where one is exercising. Solnit points out that on a walk through town she found it odd that people were exercising in a gym right next to a park (552). These people could have ran or walked outside and connected with nature, but chose to be confined within the comforts of safety. Another writer, Lucy Danziger agrees that taking a jog outside through the streets or at a park is more invigorating for the soul, than to run on a conveyor belt. She comments that “you can do it anywhere” and it relieves stress because she has the opportunity to take in everything that is going on around her. Furthermore, one can connect with nature by doing chores the old-fashioned way. Instead of picking up the leaf blower, use the rake. Actions like this use the body and connect the mind with the sensory images of the world. For example, Steven Schnur enjoys shoveling snow compared to using a snow blower because the loud noise of the blower ruins the calmness of a winter storm. And this is true. The loud noises of cars, leaf blowers, street sweepers, and even the treadmill drown out the beautiful sounds of the world. The experience is lessened because of modern tools and we must figure out how to keep a steady balance that makes room for advances and livelihood.
It would be nice to point fingers at transportation or technology, but these are the tools that man created and they are not at fault. Traveling by plane, car, or foot is a choice; the responsibility lands on the chooser. Running on a treadmill or flying in a jet are not bad actions, so long as they are not separating humankind from nature. As the kronos time keeps ticking faster, it is hard to find time to enjoy the experience, but one must keep a balance. A balance between the modern tools of society and the natural objectives of man will allow for a fascinating journey that has no need to keep track of every minute- just the moments. Living a life that is full of experiences that appease human nature is the key to having a meaningful life. One should focus on extending the experiences rather than the amount of minutes on the clock.
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