The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.
So says Rumi, a Sufi mystic and poet from the 13th century. Wikipedia gives a couple of different definitions for Sufism and I prefer this one: “a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion, the expression of which flowered within the Islamic religion”. Rumi’s words are simple, and can speak to you yet today, as you awaken from the hazy, lazy days of summer on a cool September morning.
Labour Day – blessedly late this year – has come and gone and there is work to be done, yes? This unofficial end of summer/kick in the pants hasn’t been around as long as Rumi, but has existed for a while. Its origins go back to the late 1800s when there was great support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work week. You read it right. The TTU was striking to get DOWN to a 58-hour work week. What we take for granted on the job today – minimum wage, overtime pay, workplace safety – were issues the unions of the day fought hard for.
On April 15, 1872 the printers led a parade of 2,000, complete with marching bands and banners, through Toronto, down Yonge Street to College, ending at Queen’s Park, where their numbers had swelled to 10,000. Not bad, considering Toronto’s population was in the 100,000 range at the time. The day after the parade? Although laws surrounding union activity had been abolished by then in Great Britain, they hadn’t in Canada and 24 leaders of the TTU were arrested and thrown in jail. Other unions protested the arrests by marching in Ottawa that September, eliciting a promise by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to repeal “barbarous” anti-union laws, resulting in the Trade Union Act, passed June 14, 1873.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? That it was typographers who inspired Labour Day and technology has made their jobs obsolete. Or has it? Says David Jury, head of graphic design at Colchester Institute in England, “typography is now something everybody does”. Look around. In cafes, at sporting events, in parks, on the bus. Everyone has a device, is typing on it, hitting send. But that’s not “labour”, is it? I guess some people are getting paid for the information transfer, but it’s not like spending hour after back-breaking hour hunched over a desk physically arranging type.
Anyway, annually, right after Labour Day, do you not feel a burning yearning to return to something? School? Work? Learning? “You must ask for what you really want,” says Rumi. What is it you really want? Perhaps it’s just a return to a schedule, to get things done.
Perhaps it’s just a return to a football schedule, right guys?
Because I loved school, I always really want a return to learning. Management Guru Peter Drucker said, “From now on, the key is knowledge. The world is not becoming labor intensive, not material intensive, not energy intensive, but knowledge intensive.”
Have you ever thought about that? The evolution of mankind’s knowledge? Futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller did. In his 1982 book Critical Path he estimated that all of the information man had accumulated and transmitted by the year One CE was equal to one unit and then it took 1500 years to double. The next doubling took only 250 years, and the next just 150 years. The doubling speed now? One to two years.
According to Wikia, when plotted on a graph, “The Knowledge Doubling Curve” looks like a J, but the curve is not smooth. There have been key events, “thresholds”, and guess what? We’re back to typography of all forms, old and new! Says Wikia, “The invention of writing, then of printing (first in China then later in Europe) were significant thresholds. The printing of the Bible was an important precursor to the emergence of Quakerism in 17th Century England. The invention of the World Wide Web, and then Web 2, allowed for exponential increase in the speed of knowledge doubling.”
This expansion of knowledge, while exciting, is also overwhelming. I mean, what do we do with all of this knowledge? We can’t possibly know it all! We can google it all, though. Then, what do we do with it? That’s the thing. How do we implement it into our lives?
A blog called The Technium claims expanded knowledge leads to “The Expansion of Ignorance”. “The paradox of science is that every answer breeds at least two new questions. Thus, even though our knowledge is expanding exponentially, our questions are expanding exponentially faster.”
It’s okay to ask lots of questions, though, isn’t it? Seek and ye shall find? Let’s go back to Rumi’s simple words, written during that long duration of mankind’s knowledge doubling. Stay awake at dawn and ask the breeze for what you really want, or what you really want to learn.
Then go get it.