First published June 30, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider
I’m struggling with the onslaught of time. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m turning 50 in a few weeks. Maybe it’s that I attended the funeral of an old business colleague, friend and mentor who unfortunately was taken away much too early (at 66) due to Alzheimer’s. Or maybe it’s that my oldest daughter is graduating high school this week. Whatever the reason, I just want everything to slow down a little.
At the funeral, which was in a Baptist church, the pastor comforted the congregation by telling them that this life is really a trial run for the after life. The days we spend in our corporal form are “pointless… a cruel joke” with “little meaning.” He used the analogy of a dragonfly, which lives two lives, one in a larval stage as a nymph buried at the bottom of a slough (presumably analogous to our earthly stint) and the other as the aerobatic insect we’re familiar with. He was a little shaky on his biology, but I got the point. I just don’t happen to agree with it.
I have a significantly different view of things. I think the days we spend here, each and every one of them, are precious beyond compare. In fact, one of our company’s core values enshrines this: “Each day is a gift.” One of our staff added a fitting tag: “that’s why we call it the present.” If you believe in an afterlife, that’s fine. But don’t let that belief lift the burden from your shoulders of living each and every day to its fullest. It’s all too easy to let each precious 24-hour parcel slip away, as we get caught up in the day-to-day.
I also don’t believe our lives are pointless. Far from it. Our lives here are the whole point. At the start of each day, you’re given the chance to make a difference, to improve the world just a little bit. In Canada, the average life span of a male at birth is 78.3 years. That means, if I hit the average, in my life I’ll have 28, 579 chances to do something meaningful in my time here on earth. I’ve already used about two thirds of those chances with questionable outcomes, but statistically speaking, I still have a little over 10,000 in my account. That, I believe, is a number I should pay close attention to, because each day, that balance declines by one.
Further, I believe that at this point in history, we can do more with each and every day than we ever could before. One person, now more than ever, can mobilize a significant force almost instantly, thanks to technology. In last week’s column, I introduced a moral dilemma: the use of social media in rounding up the Vancouver rioters. Were we participating in the campaign out of a sense of justice or a need for revenge? Did our motivation really matter? Many of you weighed in with your opinions, which split on both sides of the question.
I’m not going to reopen the question of whether it was right or wrong. What I wanted to focus on, in light of this week’s topic, is the sheer velocity and power of the medium. Whether it was justice or revenge, the fact was that technology made the entire thing possible.
Technology puts tremendous potential power into the hands of every person, each and every day. It’s our choice how we use that power. The fact that you are reading my thoughts and opinions right now, as I sit in my office in British Columbia and you’re wherever you are, somewhere in the world, is thanks solely to technology. Without it, I wouldn’t have the opportunity.
So, how do we use that power? How did you use technology today to make a difference? Does the fact that the five most popular Twitter users are, in order: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Britney Spears and Katy Perry worry you? Should it? Should we be concerned that the Dalai Lama’s website is only the 122,444th most popular site in the world and to this point, he hasn’t seen fit to tweet? Maybe it’s because he only has a little over 2,000 followers. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian is getting close to top 1000 traffic status for her website (according to Alexa) and she’s just after Katy Perry on the Twitter popularity scale with over 8 million followers. No offense to Ms. Kardashian, but I find it troubling that she has 4000 times the online audience of his Holiness.
The awesome reality is that this day, today, you and I have something no previous generation could possible imagine: access to the accumulated knowledge of mankind, the ability to connect with other minds around the world and a voice with which to say something meaningful. Today, you have an opportunity to do something with that gift. And, if you’re busy today, you’ll have tomorrow.
How could all that possibly be “pointless”?