Sunday, August 14, 2011

Time and bandwidth

A rainy day in New Yok City. We spent a sunlit yesterday at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, near JFK, part of what the city parks department calls its "emerald empire." It is a timeless oasis of salt marsh and reeds and sand and birds' nesting areas .. all with the skyscrapers of midtown distantly visible.

It always seems to take a day or two for my brain to absorb and decompress after a kaleidoscopic week. You can get overstimulated, too much to process, too much to know or understand or deal with.

This week was extra frenetic, with huge market volatility and historic disorder in London.

People only have limited bandwidth, I think. There is only so much you can drink from the firehouse of stimulation and information and sensation before needing some downtime - if only for a few hours. Sometimes you have the mental energy to get to grips with something complex and new. Sometimes you want to just stare into space or meander on the Internet. Or have a glass of wine and play music.

We are amazingly fortunate to have all the stimlus of the city, and our apartment loaded down with books, and ten thousand movies to stream on Netflix, and infinite knowledge on the internet, and MOMA and the Met a short ride away.

But there is a limit to what anyone can individually consume of these jewels. Time and energy are inherently limited resources, in a way money in the bank or possessions are not. Bill Gates still has just 24 hours in the day. But they move faster and faster.

There are limits to what we can see or know or experience. We can never see or do more than a fraction of a fraction of what is out there. If material goods - at least those not at the Tiffany necklace level - are not scarce, time is still scarce. And to consume many of the more advanced products of our culture, some of the main advantages of "leisure", you need time. And energy.

Some deal with it by knowing only about their niche or speciality or career perch. That seems a pity.

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