In the US culture, at least the one I live in, there is a certain pace that everything needs to happen. It needs to happen now, asap, or, as they say in South Africa, “now, now”. The fast pace in the US has historic significance, associated with those highly revered trademarks of a post-industrial society: productivity, efficiency and capital accumulation.
Infused into our daily lives as the hallmarks of a life well-lived, getting it done quickly has taken on significance as an indicator of personal accomplishment, even success. Fueled by technology, our life must not only produce something, it must mean something. Part of that something is communicating it to others, our friends, loved ones, people we barely know, people we don’t know, anyone who will listen. The gates are open 24/7, as we broadcast our message perpetually online.
I notice the contrast in the pace of our culture when I read the annual reports from South Africa. In them, I read that a person has died, the funding didn’t arrive yet and the weather is getting cold. There’s an uninspired photo of a bare piece of dry looking land. Six months later, I see a photo of people in workers uniforms and a note that everyone went for training. The land has turned into an irrigated field. I’m relieved that it looks like the plants are growing.
This year, I’m getting photos of beets and cabbages so large, I’m a little envious. I’ll never see anything like that in my market. I discover that the trees in the photo that look to me like any other are Moringa trees whose leaves are used as a nutritional supplement for mothers and children and as a protein and amino-acid rich food for fish poultry and goats. Planted as seedlings in January, they are now above “head height”. While part of me remains hopeful that one day I will pick up my pace so I can run next to others, I am aware that nothing ever grows that fast in our American gardens.