Crucial Minutia
it's the little things...
Courtney E. Martin
Composing a Life: All-at-Onceness
2 Comments | posted April 10th, 2007 at 02:19 pm by Courtney E. Martin

Veruca Salt

Okay, here’s another concept for you to try on: “all-at-onceness.” We can thank media scholar Marshall McLuhan—of “the medium is the message” fame—for this one.

Essentially the idea is that in this time of constant communication, unparalleled access to information, and ever-rising ambitions, we are a generation accustomed to “all-at-onceness.” I think of it in terms of both quantity and timing—we want it all and, please and thank you, we want it all now. A little like Willy’s old friend, Veruca Salt.


Here’s why this isn’t the worst thing. “All-at-onceness” could—if we manage our own expectations and don’t turn into horrifically spoiled whiners with ten second attention spans—translate into opportunities for individual freedom. We can customize our lives so that we get to be with the people we love more, doing work we think is worthwhile. We can live more integrated lives where work and life are not so cleaved, where we are whole people with complex lives. Where flow gushes abundantly.

Okay, or we could become slaves to our blackberries, disconnected from other human beings, incapable of reflection, devoid of wisdom.

I’m hoping for the first scenario. And I’m convinced it is within our control. I’m always hearing people talk about how addicted they are to email, how much they are overworking, the vacations they forgo because they have “no choice.” And I call bullshit. Maybe that sounds unempathic—especially coming from a freelancer—but I think we must take responsibility for the ways we use our own time, we must be conscious of the places we direct our energies, we must control our use of technology instead of letting it control us. Easier said than done, of course, but entirely possible. The quality of our lives depend on it.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 at 2:19 pm and is filed under Career/Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 2 responses

  1. Jen M

    I think I suffer from “all-at-onceness” as it could be used to describe a technology-specific type of impatience. I consider myself a pretty patient person in my relationships and with strangers, but when my computer takes more than 10 seconds to connect to the internet, or a program does start instantly, I kinda freak out. I want to punch my laptop. I recognize I’m being ridiculous and tell myself to be calm, but it doesn’t usually work.

    So, it causes some stress, but I don’t think this is a big problem if, as in my case, its mostly contained between people and certain inanimate objects. I think where this stands to be dangerous is if it breeds a need for instant gratification in areas like relationships, work or education. I think the “all” part can be healthy and good, encouraging people to go for what they want and as you suggested, to arrange their lives in more meaningful ways. It’s the pressure caused by needing the all “right now” that scares me a little.

    April 10th, 2007 | 8:42 pm
  2. Good call on the bullshit, though it’s true that it’s easier to say “buck the social trends of over-connectedness” than to actually do it. Even in a freelancer’s life, it takes energy to say, “I’m not working on the weekend” or “I quit at 6 p.m.”

    Your point reminds me of the words: “We are society.” When we talk about society being this or that, we have to remember that we are part of that society. It’s not external; we help create that reality.

    Also, you must admit that Veruca’s golden egg dance was pretty fun.

    April 12th, 2007 | 1:55 pm

Leave a reply