Will efficiency finally kill us? Wait, let me be fair. Let's define it. Efficiency in this context is doing all things better, faster, cheaper (or less costly). It means completing your work in half the time it normally takes and thereby leaving more time for personal pleasure or diversion. It also means getting the maximum value for your investments. Since we are at value, it also means striving for maximum profit in all commercial endeavors. It all boils down to securing the best quality at the best price in the best time via whatever means that is the best. In a nutshell, efficiency is an attitude of excellence which meets the deadline, delivers the results, and fulfills the promise. A fine specimen of an efficient person is that he is wealthy, academically accomplished, confident, and a goal-getter. He basically plans to succeed and upon succeeding, he plans for more successes.
So, if efficiency is all that, how is that bad? Or how does it end up killing us? Not so fast. Here's the catch. Maybe "kill" is an overkill. Let me dumb it down a notch to "dehumanize". Now, will efficiency dehumanize us then? No doubt efficiency is highly treasured and prized in this market-driven, profits-maximizing modern world. Unfortunately, it is also highly overrated. My fear is that we have idolized the idea of efficiency. And by doing so, we have measured all our endeavors against it.
You see, I can imagine an efficient worker. He is someone who excels in his work. He gets things done and is also improving as he goes along. I can also imagine an efficient doctor who performs surgery with great success and an efficient businessman who increases the profit margin for the shareholders. But I find the idea of an efficient spouse or an efficient parent or an efficient friend a little disconcerting. Maybe it’s just me?
Personally, I can't reconcile efficiency as man’s quest for perfection and the imperfection of man as a whole. Let me stretch the example a little. Imagine that I am engaged in a heated argument with my wife. Then, I tell her to be more efficient with her emotions (please bear with me on this). I tell her to maximize her rationality and to minimize her runaway emotions. I further tell her to calm down in the fastest time possible so that she can arrive at the stage of personal reflection, openness and possibly remorse for the dumb things she had said to me (her all efficient hubby) in a fit of anger.
Then, I put her on the clock and time her to see how long she takes to reach the nirvana of emotional peace and compare her current timing with her previous timing. And should she beat her previous timing, I give her a pat on the back and praise her for being such an efficient wife. After that, we give each other a firm handshake and a methodological hug and proceed to make love most procedurally at the fastest optimal time possible in order to derive the greatest pleasure from the act, and then we return to our respective home cubicle. Yes, I know...my wife would kill me even before I could time her and say "go".
Here comes my point. I trust that some things in life is out-of-bound for efficiency. My boss would no doubt want me to be efficient to contribute to his company’s profitability. The government would want her workforce to be efficient to compete internationally. But when it comes to love, to trust, to relationship, to parenting and to friendship, I shudder at the hint (or expectation) of efficiency. How do you love your wife efficiently with all your flaws (and hers) except to love her the best way you know how, and that is, sacrificially or selflessly?
What benchmark do you use to ensure that your wife stays efficient in the long run...erm...by comparing her with other "more efficient wives" after taking into account age, social status and personality differences? (Believe you me, I’ve tried that and I got myself into deeper shit. There is in fact one thing that surpasses any lesson you will ever learn about being efficient and that is to never, not even if hell freezes over, compare a woman with another; unless that other woman happens to be Mother Teresa of course).
How about friendship? Well if friendship is about accepting each other for who they are, flaws and all, then you can flush efficiency down the loo. If nobody is perfect, then don't even expect your friends to come close to being efficient all the time. We love and enjoy them for who they are, especially close friends, and we don't do a cost-and-benefit analysis every time we meet up. Their convivial company is enough for us and we don’t need them to measure up to some touchstone of efficiency.
How about our children? Now here’s the tricky bit. Academically, we want the best for them. But the truth is, not everyone of them will be academically inclined. At most times, it is best to just let them be and let them grow at their own pace. Taking an efficiency yardstick to make sure they measure up is often more frustrating than fruitful. It may even backfire and we end up jeopardizing the long term parent-and-child relationship. Todate, I still hold this unrealistic expectation that my son’s maturity would somehow be accelerated. On many occasions, I even wanted to hurry the maturity process along by immersing him in my home library and exposing him to great works of non-fiction written by intellectual giants of our time. Imagine my disillusionment. Imagine my stupidity. I only have myself to blame…100%.
So, efficiency is a scary thing when we apply it universally, that is, across the board. We would no doubt want our lawyers and accountants to be efficient; even our government. But when it comes to long term relationships, people whom we live with for life and love unconditionally, I think we can take the heat off and just live and let live. I guess in the end, the beauty of our flaws is that it is a good reminder that we are all work in progress. And in this personal journey of progress, the destination without exception ends at our gravestone. Cheerz.