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Thoughts and Rants on Anything About Life.

What Can Happen in a Second? [August 9 2012]

I stumbled upon a book last weekend that caught my attention. It’s called 642 Things to Write About. It contains 642 prompts for things to write about. Simple. With a clearly defined scope, creativity flourishes. If you know me, you know how I like this sort of thing.

This post is my take on the first prompt of the book: What Can Happen in a Second? I just wrote without thinking too much about it.

Others might follow. Or not. I haven’t read the second prompt yet. I will. But I’m shipping this one first.

The Patience of a Lonely Boat, shot by me on an old Nikon FE2 with a fantastic Velvia 50. Doesn't it serve as a good illustration for the slow passage of time?

That’s an interesting question and not and an easy one to find answers to. It turns out that in our human world, not much can happen in a second. That may be counterintuitive for some. It just sounds right to our ears to hear that some big thing happened in a split second.

It’s dramatic.

  • That accident occurred in a split second.

  • From one second to the next, everything went from great to chaos.

What’s interesting about those examples is that they really are not things that happened in a second. If you stop and think about it, in most cases, an accident had been in gestation for several seconds, minutes, hours, days. Sensationalism and big drama makes us report it otherwise. That, however, can be a rant for some other day.

Let me share this personal story. A story you might know about.

There was this moment last year when my life took a turn. I had received an invitation for a job recruitment event in Montreal for a position on the United States West Coast. I was not really considering relocating but my wife said: “Why not?”. Indeed, why not? At that moment, I started steering towards that new path. The horizon opened. You could argue that this change occurred at that second. I disagree. I think I had been contemplating the idea for some time. This idea was far-fetched, unrealistic. But that moment when that question triggered important and new answers was important not in itself, but as a tipping point in a series of events, experiences, reflections.

When I say that not much happens in a second, that’s what I’m referring to. There’s that decisive moment that breaks the before and after and we’re tempted to think it all happened right then but I believe the reality is different.

I’m sure we pass by such moments everyday because we’re not in the right mindset (which is quite alright too). As much as big drama seems to feed on split seconds twists, it’s often all the little moments that make a big one possible.

So, what can happen in one second? Millions of computations? Several frames in a video? Thousands of tweets? Yes, yes, yes and yes.

But when we’re talking about stories, there’s always more hidden behind that instant of drama.

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