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Monday, April 28, 2008

Slow down, enjoy every moment of life

We always say technology has made our lives easier. How true is that? Look at it this way: has technology made life less complicated?
 
We say life is now easier with technology, because the time we used to take to do various chores has got shorter. What used to take 1 hour now takes a few minutes; what used to take a few days, can now be accomplished in a few hours. Where we had to put in a lot of effort, we now need to put in much less.

But I think, the ease with which we are able to do things, has ironically, only made life more complicated. Since various activities now take less time to complete, many of us -- for whatever reason -- have ended up taking up more work.

For example, let us assume that to travel a particular distance X takes 2 hours. Thanks to quicker modes of transport and better roads, X travels the same distance in 1 hour. In the one hour that he has gained, what does X do? He takes up some work. Since it not an easy task, he soon relies on technology. It helps him: he used to take one hour to do it; now with modern technology, he can do that work in 40 minutes. He has saved 20 minutes. What happens next? He finds that the 20 minutes gained is taken up by some new work.
 
The end result: during the two hour stretch, earlier X just traveled. Now, he not only travels, but also does two other bits of work after reaching the destination. Soon, X goes in for a wireless laptop, which he would use to do some work while travelling as well!
 
Who said life has become only easier with technology? It may be has, but we have  also used technology to make life more and more complicated. Did at any one point, X think, "Okay, let me relax during that 20 minutes, instead of taking up some stressful activity. Technology has made my life easier, let me enjoy life better..."

Two characteristics of this tech-driven life are speed and volume of work. Many of us are just zooming through the day; if while sleeping also we could do some work, we would have done that... This could be one reason why we feel that "time is now-a-days flying by very fast". We are "already" nearing the fifth month of 2008; and in "no time" it will be 2009.

The second aspect is technology tempts us to take up more work. We often do this without considering whether we can actually do a fair job. It's a case of "biting more than what we can chew". The volume of work that we handle on a single day has increased manifold. Any work involves human labour; technology is only a help. And all around I can see severe undervaluation of human labour. Somehow, there is a feeling that machines will do everything.
 
The result of this is two fold: one positive and the other negative. The good side of all this, more work is getting done. Each one of us does today many things we couldn't do a decade back. No doubt this is a huge plus for the entire humanity. Technology has been a great enabler.   
 
But there is also a flip side. In the mad rush to do more number of things in less number of time, quality has taken a beating -- quality
of the end products, and quality of human life as well. I guess, one Not all mass-produced goods are necessarily of great quality. On the human side, a number of us are stressed out, given to temper tantrums, and suffer health-related diseases. Many of us have also stopped enjoying life.
 
This mad rush can be seen in many places. One catalyst of high-speed tech-driven life is commercial interest. Everyone -- corporates, various institutional organisations and even individuals --  are looking at the financial results and wallet more often than they actually should.
 
This world is as much money driven as much as it is tech-driven. Your guess on which came first, is as good as mine.
 
I have consciously begun to slow myself down, where ever it is possible. Let me tell you, it's worth trying out. It gives a very good feeling. It's very relaxing and it helps us to recharge ourselves. I guess the principle is like that of yoga. I have also begun to ask myself before I take up some work, whether I can do justice to it or not. Again, if I had planned for 10 things, and I could do only 7, I am no longer upset or disappointed. What should matter is that I could do 7 things much better than if I had done all 10 things, hurriedly.
 
I recently learnt about the "Slow Movement". It's all about slowing down the life's pace. It's about reconnecting with food, with people, with places, with life – because these are the things that give life meaning. Here is a website that gives a lot of details on this movement that seems to be catching up.
 
It is also true that as we use technology more often, we lose human contact. One example. I prefer to pay my electricity bill at a nearby counter, instead of opting to pay from by bank account by electronic transfer. I have switched to electronic method, in a few cases where it's difficult otherwise.

8 comments:

  1. Had a detailed look at that link. Thanks. What a remarkable attempt by a single family! Perhaps we can try to fall back on many of our own, Indian ways to slow down in all aspects of daily life?

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  2. I made the same reflexion a while back.
    I came to the conclusion we are stressing ourselves out without any valid reasons, and surely have become slaves to the machines there were there to make our life easier inthe first place.
    Now each time there is a power cut that has me unable to use the javcomputer to work, I force myself to stop hyperventilating, grab a book, or make myself a nice cup of tea and unwind, It's totally worth it.

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  3. So true Pradeep! Technology does help in making us but run faster in this race of life. I agree that we need to slow down, to stop and smell the roses!

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  4. Such a valid observation - I have always felt that mostly people are on a treadmill nowadays, running all the time, and getting nowhere.
    And the fact that we increase the volume of work, rather than relax in the time gained by using mod cons and technology - so sad!

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  5. LOVED this post... i try my best to slow down...check this link too
    http://zenhabits.net/

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  6. Pradeep,
    I totally agree with you.
    I find that people don't know what to do with themselves when there is silence in their surroundings.. filling silence with noise seems to be what most of us prefer.
    Also, though it's mentioned indirectly- there is a problem with many workplaces desiring the 'skill' of multitasking. The man on the train trying to rest while using laptop is one type of multitasking- but the type needed at work is actually, in my opinion, not productive as giving full attention to one task at a time until it's done. Maybe you can share your thoughts on this! Thanks.

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  7. Thanks Swarna, Cyn, Vidhya, Raji, Nanditha, Jennifer for sharing your views. Interestingly, what we've lost by slowing down is often nothing so valuable.

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  8. how i wish we could slow down...we are all in this state due to our desire for speed...coz somebody taught us that one has to be fast to catch the opportunity before it goes by...how i wish i could be the simple man of an RK Narayan book...

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