Nature is our biggest inspiration. The cars we've created came from horse-drawn carriages. All the machines we create are a copy of our bodies. The computer has a brain, has an input, has an output, has a power source. All machines have a circulatory system, with essential nutrients transmitted through them.
We've made advances. Taming a horse, to then tying together a bunch of horses and putting a box behind them, to electric cars. But electric cars, while an improvement on the internal combustion engine, aren't self-sustaining. The fuel they use comes from an external source.
The human machine also relies on external sources (food and water and sunlight) for sustenance. And it generates waste products via exhalation and excretion.
The colossal difference in the natural environment is in how all the variables fit together. You put four wolves and you can fix an ecosystem as large as Yellowstone. You remove an apex predator or introduce an alien species and the ecosystem collapses (in the short-term.)
One limitation in our progress is our handicap of looking at time. Using one hundred years as a lifetime, we tend to focus on short durations. The disruptions we are producing i.e. the variables in the system we are affecting are unbeknownst to us.
Climate change is a straightforward example of the human brain looking at technological progress, without adequate thought to disruption of other variables in the system over a much larger span of time.
Another example is the construction of houses and the encroachment of the city into various catchment areas in my hometown of Madras. What used to be marshland or natural water catchment areas are now clumps of apartments. The water table has a band-aid - water is being brought from other areas. The recent floods happened because of a lack of catchment areas. But that's beyond a point of no return. So, storm drains all over the city are being constructed.
Timescale in our lives
In our own lives, we tend to make similar mistakes. In fitness and nutrition, we want results immediately. We want to get on a diet, and we want to see weight loss. We want to lift weights or do yoga, and get the results as shown in the marketing and promos.
The prospect of losing 1 kilo per month does not seem exciting to a person wanting weight loss. But 24 months ago, if you had gotten started on this "slow, steady, sustainable" approach, you would be 24 kilos lighter. All done in a sensible, practical fashion with none of the detrimental effects of a crash diet.
Learn a new language in a matter of weeks or learn cooking in a month or whatever are simple examples of a marketing scheme playing to our weakness. Of wanting change right NOW! Is any skill truly possible to learn in a matter of weeks? Yes, you can learn the starting point but only constant, consistent practice will lead to a semblance of real skill.
We need a paradigm shift in internal thought of how to look at time. Else, we will continue to make erroneous judgments. The funny thing with this is it is much harder to do when we have more time.
In my 20s, I was in a bigger rush. My 30s, I slowed down a bit but I was still too caught up and unaware. As I get into the 40s, finally some light is starting to shine. I don't need to master the kettlebell by the end of this year. I don't need to read all the books on my unread list by the end of this month.
Everything I add has a consequence that could impact quite a few more years and things than I realise today. Falling in love with fitness in my mid-20s has had an impact for 15+ years and will continue to do so for the rest of my life, in all probability. But 15 years ago, I was in a rush to lose fat and get fit, whatever that meant.
Today, I know I could've saved time and energy if I had taken things slower, focused on technique, stuck on one thing for longer before moving on.
The same lessons hold, for whatever new endeavour I get involved in. Nothing needs to be rushed and made to happen today.
What is something you can slow down on?
What is something you can take your time to learn because it will echo for the rest of your life?
Two simple things come to my mind. Learning to cook and learning to meditate. Cooking is a skill I have not focused on or made any concerted attempt to learn. Meditation is a skill that I have made a concerted attempt to learn but I am flabbergasted by my cluelessness. But now I know, there's no rush. I can work on something for a year, and if that doesn't work, I can move on to a different technique or method.
Concerted effort, proper awareness, patience, diligence. These are constants. When you add this to an appropriate timescale, zooming out rather than zooming in, we can actually make significant progress.
At least, that's what I am telling myself about meditation and cooking.