I happened to overhear a young woman in a coffee shop tell a friend that she had just seen a classic Western movie—and was disappointed.
She said that it didn’t have the same level of action and the fast pace of today’s film, “not enough adrenaline rush.”
Though she probably overgeneralized the pace of older films compared to newer ones, I agree with her observation—if I apply that trend to daily life. It does seem now that almost everything occurs at an accelerating pace.
People can say this is subjective, that a minute is still a minute, a day is still a day. But quantity and quality are not the same thing. Even if the measurement of time remains the same, we experience life as getting faster, more intense, or both.
As a Baha’i, I attribute this phenomenon to the coming of Baha’u’llah—and to both the nature and the magnitude of his message. The past 150 years, known as the Baha’i era, have been characterized by the breakdown of old, antiquated rules and institutions and the rapid creation of new ones in every area of human life. Recent generations have seen an acceleration in this rate of change, and we now have the means to know about events even as they occur anywhere on the planet. We can communicate instantaneously. We can travel anywhere. We can cross every boundary and border.
If we could travel back to the time of previous prophets and messengers, we would find that each one brought teachings which changed the fundamentals of their time and place. One of the distinguishing principles brought by Baha’u’llah—global unity—has had an enormous impact. Even now, we see reverberations due to the shift from disunity to unity. Admittedly sometimes distressing to watch and experience, as a Baha’i I see these changes as inevitable as they take us ultimately to a better world. Abdu’l-Baha gave this explanation:
Mankind needs a universal motive power to quicken it. The inspired messenger who is directly assisted by the power of God brings about universal results. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 88.
Comparing this spiritual phenomenon to the physical world, he also said:
The light and heat of the sun cause the earth to be fruitful, and create life in all things that grow; and the Holy Spirit quickens the souls of men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 59.
The word “quickens” has many meanings, and somehow they all seem to describe today’s fast pace. Among its definitions are concepts such as vitalizing and stimulating—and we all can see that today’s world seems to be more alive due to its new potentialities.
We know that both growth and change are intrinsic to life. This is nothing new—but now, beyond the turning of the seasons and the natural urge to grow, beyond the physical and material explanations that we might otherwise offer, we can sense a new impetus propelling us forward.
As reflected in action films and novels, as reported in print media, as demonstrated through broadcast news media, and as accessed through the Internet and the Web, our world is changing rapidly. These changes in turn challenge our ability to change with it:
That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race could neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day and period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former degrees of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moralities, new capacities. New bounties, bestowals and perfections are awaiting and already descending upon him.
From every standpoint the world of humanity is undergoing a reformation. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 438-439.
It might be timely and even valuable to discuss with a friend, perhaps at a coffee shop, how prepared we are to respond to the increasing pace of living, to this reformation the Baha’i teachings promise.
We might ask questions like: How adaptable am I? What are my resources? How wide are my perspectives? How trusting am I in the results? Do I have a larger vision for the future? Am I aligned with other like-minded people? Am I riding the waves or struggling against the current?
Questions this complex require more than a cup of coffee. A refill and a muffin would help.