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Offbeat – 11 April 14

Perhaps it is time to begin considering tortoise time, time to stop and think and relax. There has to be a limit to rapid and effective productivity.

There used to be a fable about a tortoise and a hare. They got in a race, probably betting their ability to move for a pile of wilted lettuce and a shrivelled carrot. The story goes, that the hare was so confident that it stopped to chill out for a bit then fell asleep. The tortoise carried on plodding until it came to the finish line and won the whole heap of health nutrients.
I quite like tortoises. They are peaceful creatures mainly, with the exception of the one that was trained to attack toes. They plod around, I suppose thinking about not much more than green leaves and reproduction. If I knew that tortoises had thoughts, I wouldn’t mind being reincarnated as one. I doubt it though. If reincarnation is a serious metaphysical proposition, I’m going with human because thinking is fun. The same thing goes for sharks and cats.
The tortoise story seems to have been entirely forgotten now. Speed and effect of productivity is the key issue. Don’t stop to think, or form memories. There are people who are paid to think, anyway. They are called strategists. They are equally plagued in different ways: they have to produce thoughts rapidly and effectively.
The thing of smart phones makes it a lot worse. It used to be possible to work rapidly and effectively behind a computer at work. Now, with the new breed of devices, it is quite normal to sit in a restaurant or bar and be reminded that you have to work as you get email notifications there.
Right now it feels as if there is no refuge, anywhere. The thing came to me in a moment when I spoke to one friend about my guilty feeling for spending time with another friend. I realised that barring a couple of hours out of the home and away from the computer, I am always constrained by the need to do something, and even then, I have the companionship of a mobile phone with mail to remind me.
To be fair, there are still tortoises of that other breed in my life, the ones who leave the office early, sometimes for days on end, leaving me free but in productivity limbo, until all the items arrive at the same time screaming, “Here’s the deadline that should have happened days ago.”
What is the effect of all this rapid and effective productivity?
Life gets forgotten somewhere along the way. The points that are scored consist of not much more than money and possibly appearances. That’s great if you need to buy friends and they judge you on the superficiality of appearances. It’s also great if your idea of a lifestyle is  very expensive TV and a couple of hours a day in front of it with the drool trickling from the side of your mouth.
It’s not worth much if your idea of a good time is to spend quality time with others.
It’s not worth much either if you appreciate a bit of solid thought that forms over time, the kind that doesn’t need revision as hundreds of flaws appear in the plan, or the absence of a plan.
Let’s revise Aesop’s fable to reflect the new way of doing things.
The hare doesn’t stop moving ever, but cannot win the race because it keeps on getting diverted in a harebrained kind of way, or the finish line keeps getting shifted. The tortoise is forgotten completely. It’s just not fast enough. The lack of an ending is clear, unless the hare finally collapses. The hare is ambitious, or tatus conscious. It won’t drop out of the race because it wants its incentive bonus so that it can buy a status symbol that will be replaced in a couple of years by another, newer status symbol.
The tortoise is the one that needs to be added back into the mix. It gets to spend time on the good things in life, those juicy green leaves and sweet romance. I seem to remember that time has a utility value. Right now current economic theory seems to put the time utility if productivity significantly above the utility value of time spent on leisure. There is no equilibrium.
Perhaps it is time to begin considering tortoise time, time to stop and think and relax. There has to be a limit to rapid and effective productivity.

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