Is Fast Actually Better?

If you go to Walmart’s website, it says the following in very bright and prominent letters - “Faster is Better: How We Are Optimizing” AT&T boasts its “The Nation’s Fastest & Most Reliable 4G LTE Network”

In the October 14, 2013 issue of Time Magazine, there was an article titled “Six Second Stars,” written by Laura Stampler. In this short article, she spotlights a new social network called “Vine” (owned by Twitter) in which members are allowed to upload 6-second video clips. In her article, Ms. Stampler asks and answers the following question - “what’s fueling the app’s popularity? The answer is Vine’s restrictions, say [its] users. One of its recent famous users, Megalis, states, “I have a horrendous attention span, so six seconds was perfect.”

Cushman, in Constructing the Self, Constructing America, spends a great deal of time elucidating the values embedded in US commercials and relays the fact that they embody a certain social milieu. Studying our commercials is a great source of information about that which we care. In Habits of the Heart, Bellah et al, say the following, “While television does not preach, it nevertheless presents a picture of reality that influences us more than an overt message…[commercials], which convey the idea that human aspirations for liberty, pleasure, accomplishment and status can be fulfilled in the realm of consumption.”

Mercedes Benz commercials emphasize speed and luxury; many products use the phrase “more for less – as in 60% more for x number of dollars”; I-phones and Android technology make the world immediately accessible. With a couple of swipes across the screen, we can read about the news in India, Europe…, we can even set our DVR so as to watch a show later, enabling us to fast forward through every single commercial so we watch only the show itself. Many television shows and movies finish their arc within 30 minutes to two hours, leaving viewers with the satisfied feeling that life has been figured out. The storyline was completed. We are a society addicted to speed, accuracy, and efficiency.  Embedded in the very fabric of our being is the idea that we can acquire quicker results for less money, less time, and less inconvenience to ourselves.

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that psychological, emotional, and spiritual transformation is often not that way.

The effort to articulate the unsayable and the awareness of the psychotherapist's own experience of the patient are designed to bring forth meaning and motivation that have not previously been known to either party. This is very difficult to measure and it takes TIME! My fear is that a consistent application of efficiency may not recognize the reality of any of this. The psychoanalytic worldview offers a science of pausing, knowing, and reflecting and is based on the belief that human experience can only be understood by engagement with it and that engagement cannot be completely assessed by the methods of efficiency. Jack Kornfield, in Mindfulness and the Brain, makes the following statement. “Intentionally paying attention allows things to reveal themselves.” He goes on to say that it is actually in the pausing, quieting oneself, and practicing mindfulness that one begins to cultivate traits associated with well being - a practice that's the very opposite of our culture's milieu.