Two major news stories unfolded today. To call them equal in importance, impact, emotional and worldwide influence would be in poor taste. By critical, I suggest only by count of stories, by outlets, by reporters, by headlines. By no judgement of their content or context.
Today, a rocket attack on the United States embassy in Libya killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
Today, Apple announced its iPhone 5, along with a number of other enhancements to its consumer tech lineup.
You think, why would she bring these stories together. Is she going to try to compare them and their global impacts? The death of a highly-respected ambassador to the launch of what, loved or not, consumer and enterprise changing or not, will be gracing landfills in another two-year cycle when the next version is released?
But then you decide I have more tact than to oversimplify that, and you read on.
Today, we live in an age of urgency, in an age of where now isn’t soon enough. Where even the first response seems to come too late. Where sound bites are getting shorter, apologies tweeted. Where a glance at a title and a cursory peek at LinkedIn are supposed to tell us more about a person than his or her handshake.
We live in a political landscape where presidential campaign truces on 9/11 are broken over an hour early so one candidate can condemn the other’s response to attacks as sympathizing with the attackers.
That is, had the comment in question come from the candidate’s administration.
And, that is, if the comment in question and criticism had been with regard to the attacks.
And then we stand by these false arguments, because we made them and in this digital world, they are now, forever and always accessible on YouTube and Wikipedia.
We live in a consumer landscape where the updates by Apple, whose representatives rarely talk to press, are debated, predicted and analyzed for weeks preceding corporate announcements. Where we think we know what is coming and have already discussed our agreement and disagreement with Apple’s process and progress ahead of knowing what is reality, where it’s not a few reporters but thousands of tweets simultaneously telling the same story. So that, after all the predicting, guessing and debating, we can find out we were right and be letdown because that was all there was.
Where, before today’s story is done being told now, we’re look at what is coming next.
It’s ambitious of us, this sense of urgency. Now we get to go on Facebook to look at the tornado nearly as it spins, we can search Twitter to see if traffic over the bridges is painful tonight, and we can use social channels as direct lines to telling our favorite celebrities we thought their latest Funny or Die appearance was great.
And at the same time, to have everything now. First. Broadcast by us now because so many of us are driven by 24-hour news cycles and nonstop newsfeeds to need to be a voice with an opinion as an expert who gets it right urgently.
It’s an interesting, and stressful, dynamic we put ourselves in, but do we retain anything? Do we ever understand the full story, and do we ever contemplate “now” before “next.” Did we listen to the context of the convention speeches, or did we tune out between sentences that sounded smart enough to quote on Facebook? When we took ourselves away on summer vacations, did we see what we took pictures of through the wide view of our eyes? Or through the narrowed view of the lens blocking them? Are we doing ourselves disservices, are we seeing everything – and at the same time, losing the point of most of it?
Do I shut down the computer sometimes so I can spend now watching Robot and Frank and Beasts of the Southern Wild with my boyfriend? Or the Mets
win lose again? Yes, because that I can enjoy now.
But do I panic that I’m not doing enough now to get what’s next? That, driven by needing stories for the blog, what is satisfying and comfortable and happy, normal, is… safe? That, logged in to my work e-mail 24/7, I might get seven promotions in seven months rather than one?
And I realize that is ridiculous, because no amount of stressing for best and next should have us sacrifice now, which is all we have guaranteed.
Happiness with personal and professional lives should be determined by more than our own soundbites and scripted moments. But we – neighbors and colleagues, celebrities and politicians, press – are living these lives with more urgency than ever.
This week, I’ll place an order for an iPhone 5. My first iPhone, and I’ll retire my Droid X because the spots on my broken screen remind me of a Dalmatian pup. Before I pour myself a cup of coffee in the morning, the iPhone 5’s quicker mind will know I’m touching the screen before I do, will know my intentions, will know my answers to my questions.
And then I’ll have the apps for all my major news sources, where I can find out where all the politicians are saying things first now that will be picked apart in two minutes. Where moments of grace are upstaged by rushed political agendas for airtime.
And then I’ll play some happy music that lasts two minutes and doesn’t make me think I need to do anything now but tap my toes and enjoy now.
Tonight, I’ll publish my 240th blog post on here, and it’ll get shared on Facebook and Twitter, and maybe warrant a few comments. Then tomorrow or the next day, a new one will bury it. Because time, life and focus moves on. But I’ll try to only publish when it’s worth it. Rather than just to speak or write words in sentences I created to have a public voice. First, best, smartest.
Because when it comes to always trying to speak now, smartest, first, like the hot coffee you sip slowly to wake quickly in the morning, maybe it’s better to bite your tongue than burn it.