Richness or Speed?

To be human is to wait. We wait in line. We wait for mortgages to be paid. We wait for test results. We wait for videos to download. We are living in new moment in human history in which our perception of waiting and time are rapidly changing though our engagement with technology.

The two-second rule, a longtime industry standard in the world of Internet commerce is now too sluggish for today’s online shoppers. Recently, Google engineers have discovered that 400 milliseconds is just too much time for some of us to wait for a webpage to download.

Our world today has benefited greatly from the advances in speed over the last century. Medical tests provide quick results. Photos appear instantly. Immediate communication links us to loved ones around the world.

Yet in a culture that celebrates speed, I wonder about the hidden cost of velocity. What does it mean for our decision making, for our relationships, and for our health if literally the blink of an eye is perceived as too much time to wait?

The Internet provides an interesting analogy that may help us to wrestle with this question. When web developers create a website, they are faced with a choice: they can either use high-resolution images that slow user download times or they can reduce image richness for the sake of speed. Richness or speed? It’s an interesting tradeoff.

While there are many benefits to speed, there are losses, too. Neighbors have become strangers. Family members listen but don’t hear one another. We read words but miss the meaning. We communicate, but we don’t connect.

Of course sometimes life invites us to move quickly. Emergencies arise; deadlines await. Speed is not an enemy. I’m aware, however, that when I choose to go quickly, there is often a tradeoff. When I frantically cook, clean, and organize the basement as my children are getting ready for school, I can accomplish much, but my connection with them suffers. Like in web design, if we increase speed, we lose richness.

Moving slowly is countercultural. Waiting with patient calm is a rare skill. If we practice slowing down, we have an opportunity to increase our awareness of the richness that surrounds us. When we learn to fully inhabit this moment, we can live in any moment. This is the wisdom of mindfulness practice. When we bring present moment awareness to any situation and begin observing without analysis or judgment, we open ourselves to new possibilities.

At Copper Beech Institute we are a community that understands the speed at which many of you travel. If you are finding that the tradeoff between speed and richness is one that has become unbalanced in your life, we warmly welcome you to spend some time with us on retreat. We believe that when we slow down we give ourselves an incredible gift—the gift of a life filled with more richness than we may have ever noticed before.

In Peace,

Dr. Brandon Nappi
Executive Director & Founder
Copper Beech Institute

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