Source: The Corydon Democrat

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Conflicts of time and space
Community conversations

by Judy O'Bannon

September 24, 2013

No wonder we all feel a little frazzled these days. We seem to have time and space all intermingled in a confusing flux. This morning, as I tried to make sense out of the clutter on my calendar and in my computer, I found the oddest mix of things that were going on in our world at the same time.

For instance: The news is full of speculation as to what we should do in response to the military atrocities in Syria. Our national leaders ponder the consequences of our actions, or no-actions, in a chess game of diplomacy and military. Syria and its "civil war" do not stand alone. There are alliances with other countries that pull different powers into the fray. Events of the past between Syria and its neighbors form allies in strategic ways. It has become a proxy war, with aid and intrusions coming from various countries and factions. Each country has divisions and interests that divide it. We are aware of the NATO alliance and our commitment to protect our fellow members, but, beyond that, most of us can't follow the other players. No wonder we feel helpless and a bit afraid.

I receive urgent news messages on my cell phone from the Associated Press. At the same time, by "snail mail," come comprehensive itineraries of tourist trips to worldwide destinations. The enclosed photos show smiling folks intermingling with people in different countries. There are no camouflage suits in these pictures. These folks are wearing T-shirts covered with pink flowers, business logos and sporting team names. There is no urgency about the tours. Huge international companies book trips year-round, and you can save money by signing up a year ahead or at the last minute. What has happened to time and space? Is this that relativity thing Albert Einstein wrote about?

I am told to become more savvy with technology and, in mere seconds, respond to news events and business exchanges. At the same time, I am encouraged to go through the inconvenience of recycling now in order that our planet might live for future generations. Recently, as I took the trash to the curb for its weekly pick-up, I realized that I had more recyclables than actual trash. I remember when a small plastic tub was more than I needed to save the environment. Now, my recycle bin is so big it does not fit through the small door into my garage. I used to cook everything from scratch and run a compost pile like a good organic gardener. Now, in my haste to make the best use of every minute on my computer, text messages and cell phone, I go to the store and get pre-cooked dinners to serve my guests. That overfilled recycle bin had the big bunch of cardboard and plastic from my recent family party.

I am advised to "stop and smell the roses" but master and take advantage of every technical opportunity available. I may be gazing at the beautiful autumn leaves, but my head is a-buzz of information, demands and questions. Do I book an excursion for a pleasure trip to a place on the other side of the world or equip myself for a long drawn-out military skirmish with hidden and unknown terrorists?

Are we aware of too many things that, as citizens, are beyond our control, thus causing us to become fearful and nervous? Or, are we living unrealistic and naively dangerous lives? Are we traveling too fast or too slow? Well, it depends upon who you are talking to.

I read in Time magazine that honey bees are threatened with extinction. Years ago, Einstein is quoted as having said, "If the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, man would have no more than four years to live."

The forecast for bats and their survival is about as gloomy. We used to see lots of bats swooping around at twilight catching insects. I counted only two during one evening recently.

Where is climate change in all this quandary as to time and space? Scientists send out research reports with warnings and yet the debate goes on among the general public. We act as though we are the only occupants of the planet with our own time frame and priorities. I rationalize buying prepackaged prepared food because I am on a tight schedule with everyday commitments and diminished years ahead of me. I didn't want the recycle bin at first because it was big, ugly and hard to push. I use bug spray when my ankles really itch. I buy gadgets and equipment that rapidly become outdated because I don't want to miss out on conveniences others may be using. I drive my car to a meeting nearby because I don't want to be late and then I worry that fossil fuels are shortening the life expectancy of our planet.

No wonder we feel a little frazzled these days!