Change happens slowly, for the most part, but sometimes it happens in an instant. Jim McClellan has this Perspective.
A geological time scale spans billions of years. But one interesting thing about geological history is that some changes aren’t gradual at all, but instant. Like asteroid impacts or massive waves unleashed by falling glaciers, they suddenly and forever alter the earth. I think that kind of rapid change on an otherwise long, evolutionary scale can occur in more subtle ways too.
Like growing up, for example.
In the summer after ninth grade, I worked at New York Hospital in Manhattan. I was a volunteer and did a variety of jobs. One day I was sent to an upper floor to pick up a package from a lab. I handed the requisition to the woman sitting behind the desk, and as she retrieved the package, I noticed a poster of the hospital on the wall. Just the hospital building, standing out against a bright blue sky. “Wow,” I said with a laugh. “Someone made a poster of New York hospital?” The woman placed the package in my courier pouch, but as she gave it back to me, quietly said, “Some people think it’s the most beautiful place in the world.”
Though I didn’t fully grasp it until a few years later, those words pierced my teenage armor, sending a shock wave of new cracks and contours through my brain. I suddenly knew where I was, and that this place truly mattered. I knew that every doctor, nurse, and staff member understood that. And I knew — in a way no lecture could have ever convinced me — that in a place built to save lives, a churlish attitude was shameful. A glacier had been dislodged, and the gorge it carved in my mind was permanent.
At times, the road before me seems laden with nothing but brick walls, and it’s easy to let frustration suffocate hope. But it’s also helpful to remember that even though change is often slow or insufficient, it can occasionally come all at once, and reorder the world as we know it, sometimes for the better.
With a Perspective, I’m Jim McClellan.
Jim McClellan is co-founder of a logistics software company focused on the wine industry. He lives in Marin.