Saving [And Losing] Time-In-A-Bottle

When Jim Croce sang his classic “Time In A Bottle” he was waxing eloquent about how we might capture this elusive mystery we call time. A good argument could be made that humanity’s first success at this came in 1840 with the first camera. For the first time in history we could now capture! hold! display! something in time for all time.

One hundred seventy three years ago this was a stunning accomplishment. Today, we take it for granted. We also take for granted we can manipulate captured time in ways of our own choosing. Selecting the images we want from the millions of cameras we have installed from street poles to sky satellites. In effect, anything that has or is happening is now instantly ours to see and use as we see fit. From re-runs of Seinfeld and Homeland to action-scenes from the riots in Cairo to the killing of Ben Ladin.

We have thus become Masters of the Universe!

But here’s why I call this blog TAKING A SECOND LOOK. It asks we take a second look at what’s happening in our lives, like this remarkable technological achievement in this remarkable technological age. Once we do, a curious twist to our mastery begins to emerge. Having become so accustomed and accomplished at capturing time, we become almost helpless whenever we lose control of time.

An example.

Presidents, prime ministers and CEOs in their offices surrounded with their consoles, smartphones, and Blackerries are suddenly interrupted when something outside the window occurs. A tornado, explosion, riot, or 9/11 unexpectedly bursts in upon them. This was not in their time table…this was not programmed into their systems…this was not even factored into their day; and yet the Masters of the Universe are quite abruptly called upon to think and act outside the bottle they have become so accustomed to controlling.

True, our species has always been challenged by the unknown. However, aren’t brains accustomed to controlling the unknown less equipped to respond when the unexpected happens? Like George Bush’s blank face in that classroom when he was advised of the 9/11 attack….or Governor Perry’s blank face in that network debate when he was without his handlers to help him answer an unexpected question…or the blank expression on our face when stunned and numbed that news bulletin on our screen.

Here’s a guess. Our primitive ancestors were more keenly prepared to react to the unexpected than are we, largely because they had not become lulled into assuming: “Look world, I’m in control!.” Knowing how little we really control is an crucial instinct we may have lost along our evolutionary travels….

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