The Law of Increasing Marginal Return

Everyone's so in a rush. Reading so quickly. Walking so fast. As if we could absorb as much ...of it all... as possible. Children want to be teenagers, want to be adults, then, successful adults, the optimum of themselves, which is always a future-state.

And now we have this thing, this thing that gives us more. More data about ourselves and each other. More possibility than ever before. And we, in our younger, reach for it, and ride the river.

But those getting older stray off that river, they know it leads to an inevitable conclusion. A waterfall of unknown. Some face that waterfall with despair, some with hope that they will fly or float on the cloud cushion. Others fear the rocks below and tremble. Some numb. But we all rush to the waterfall, together, until we look back and forward and see how close it is.

It's then that we want time to stop, to slow down. To make every day, the best day. And talk to all our family, and see our friends. To stretch each moment as long as it can possibly, inevitably last. To hear a note go on-and-on-on until the break of dawn. To get a drink, and then another, hoping they'll each be the same, not better, just the exact same. Where the law of diminishing marginal returns is instead broken and inverted.

The law of increasing marginal return is the acceptance of that velocity and desire to slow, stretch, and savor. To alliterate, if need be, and increase the joy to a neutral place. Keep turning the page, and know the story goes through infinite permutations. Or better, can be read again.

That's why so many digital products work well with the younger generation who wish to increase their velocity (accelerate, duh) to their better selves. And why so many digital iterations are abhorred by the growing elder generation. Stately, they've become their best selves, as far as they can, and seeing themselves as adults, work to retrieve their youthful mindset, their capacity for knowing potential from actual deltas, and lavishing themselves with their wasteful inability. They paddle backward. They slow, stare, and unplug.

I walk to this cafe for every Sunday. I take out my ear buds. I don't fiddle with my FitBit. I don't check my phone (unless it's been 45 and I'm checking in on Angela b/c I've an infant and one can only not ping the family, be it open the door at 2 a.m., or walk away from the cave and back to the fire to see them under sleeping furs). I don't open the laptop. Recently, I've stopped carrying a bag, or things in general.

I pay in cash. Physical, fiat tender. I make small talk with the barrista, forcibly growing the line behind me.

And I stare.

I just get super zonked and stare. So many things. At the artifacts on the walls that depict every slam-dash generation of americana. Outside. At the trees, and slow-motion-earthquake of buildings colliding from centuries of style. The trees that have known each other all their lives. I zoom in on people at the cafe, tapping on their phones, digitally chatting with someone across the planet on laptops, sipping cold coffee, listening to music on their headphones but generally with a "purpose". I hear the digital music in the sound system but ignore it. And listen to the quiet noise of the cafe.

For an hour. Sometimes two. I stretch my moments as long as I can. People don't notice me, or glance at me in the eye then away. Sometimes I hold a gaze. I can hold a gaze. It used to be so heavy.

They're there because they want to connect. I know I am. They could do it all at home, or work-that-they-call-home. But they're in a cafe. They made the journey somewhere shared. Maybe the like the "noise" of their neighbors, but some are so plugged in, how could that be heard? I personally think they like knowing there are other people. Like flying over the the Atlantic in a 1st class cabin, surrounded by people, instead of a private jet, it's a reminder of your humanity to be so close to something alive.

Everyone has the potential to be loved. People want to be loved. A person doesn't really want to be "somebody else" because that would require a high degree of empathy. They want to be "somewhere else", their best selves, in the future, loved, both knowingly and anonymously. I think that's why they're at the cafe. In trying to change my experience, to knowingly control the journey taken, it feels to be that people look to continuously improve than to wallow in their own greatness.

As we backpaddle away from the waterfall, and move closer to the edges of the river, and slow ourselves in the reeds, it is good to be our most alive selves, always, in the moment. If not our best, or our ideal, or virtuous, at least most alive.

This article is my 39th oldest. It is 841 words long