Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Two-Second Rule

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven" (Eccl 3:1)
One of the key things about driving on highways is to observe the 2-second rule and establish a safe stopping distance. Under good weather and normal road conditions, a driver can use a 2-second time stop gap to leave enough space between one's car and the vehicle in front. For drivers with slower reactions, more time should be added to it. What it means is that any driver should be able to stop his or her vehicle within 2 seconds without hitting the car in front during an emergency brake. In higher speed roads, this standard gap should be increased to 3 seconds and in bad weather road conditions, it should be lengthened to 4 seconds. This rule of thumb is for the sake of both the driver as well as the driver in front. What about tailgating? In defensive driving, we can minimize the probability of a rear side collision by leaving even more space in front of us so that we can do a gradual stop, and to allow the rear driver enough time to safely stop without crashing into our boot.

Our modern life is a fast-paced one. Things can only get faster and more demanding. Microprocessor speeds are expected to rise with each succeeding generation. In computer technology, Moore's law states that the number of transistors doubles nearly every two years. This has been applied to speeds, memory capacities, volumes and many forms of measurable devices. In management sciences, people make it a point to multi-task efficiently without sacrificing productivity. People fill in all empty spaces of their busy schedule and appointments. Even lunch breaks have been turned into opportunities to solicit business deals. It is a vicious cycle. Competition pressures businesses to increase their pace and reduce their prices. Businesses squeeze employees to cut costs, to do more with less. Employees are tempted to cut corners, which endanger quality and put customer satisfaction at risk. Customers intensify the whole cycle by emphasizing price over and above loyalty. Goodwill and well meaning gestures of tolerance and patience are slowly being replaced by quick-tempered behaviour and impatience. Such actions can unwittingly feed the the hamster wheel of busyness, constantly running but never really gaining much ground. The American clergyman, William Boetcker writes perceptibly:
If your business keeps you so busy that you have no time for anything else, there must be something wrong, either with you or with your business.” (William J. H. Boetcker)
There is a time for everything, and for every event under heaven. Unfortunately, the mad rat-race can fatally blind people into thinking that they can manage life without leaving a safety distance for themselves and for others. Fil Anderson describes his experience in his book "Running on Empty." A high achiever, he constantly worries over expectations placed by others and himself. His life is a living testimony of speeding up when his tank is running empty. His situation is a serious case of an overworked professional. He had allowed his busy lifestyle to become his sense of identity, leaving no space for others, for himself and for God to work.
"... I lived with a deep sense of loneliness, fear, frustration, and disappointment. While always busy and usually productive, I rarely feel satisfied, at peace, or at home with myself. As a natural consequence of my feelings of isolation, I was often resentful, afraid, and angry..... A deadly pattern developed: My body would fall apart whenever I broke away from the constant activity, often around holidays and vacations." (Fil Anderson, Running on Empty, Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2004, 11-12)
We need to learn to leave a "2-second rule" to unwind and not throw our work frustrations when we get back home. Otherwise, the family we claim to love only becomes an innocent punching bag for any work-related stress and accumulated steam of anger. Leave your office a little earlier each day so that you can drive slowly and not be upset by bad traffic conditions. Take a casual walk, slowly and prayerfully up the stairs, through the garden or simply pausing to chat with neighbours. You can also apply this 2-second rule for the sake of those following close behind you. Practice slowing down when others are hot on your heels, like speaking a bit slower or gentle breathing. If necessary, increase the time-space gap according to your personality. In doing so, you will grow to appreciate the wisdom of the Ecclesiastes passage, that there is a time to speed up, a time to slow down, and also a time to stop. Pause. Pray. Give thanks.
"When I stopped running and started listening to God's whispering voice, I heard my true identity declared, 'Fil, you're my beloved son, and I love you.'" (Fil Anderson, p195)

Thought: Examine your calendar. Have you placed a 2-second rule between appointments? Have you given yourself a planned time to unwind and to recover before coming back into the embrace of your loving family? Do you know how much space and time you need before any anger blows up uncontrollably? Show your loved ones you love them, by giving space and time all around you.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." (Viktor E Frankl)


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