We spend our lives creating, and waiting in, queues. We do our best to manage the dead time in line and when we are responsible for the movement of any queue, we oftentimes become impatient with a process that more slowly unravels than the speed in which it tightened.
Sometimes there’s nothing to be done except to stand back and let the queue take on a life of its own and allow it to expire when the momentum of the movement is exhausted.
There are three kinds of basic queues that capture our daily lives: Physical, Virtual and Ethereal. Let’s examine them in kind.
The first People queue of record is the simplest to comprehend and cope with throughout the day. We line up our bodies for processing and servicing and we don’t jump the line or stray beyond the common boundaries arbitrarily placed before us because we want chaos avoidance and we do not want to contribute to the detritus of social getting along.
People queues tend to work well. They are self-sufficient, group-governed, and expire when the bodies end. There is safety and satisfaction and predictability in the context of the unspoken lining.
The second queue — Virtual — is a more tricksy monster-in-waiting. There is form and substance given to a virtual queue, in theory — a machine process, a web script, a planning function — but there is danger in the automation and a deception in the too-easy want for unraveling.
As an example, I use Sprout Social to manage our social media mesh on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, and the best way to use that web service is to pre-write a series of updates that get automatically posted on your behalf during the day while you’re off doing something else.
There’s magic in writing something now and having it propagate later, but the danger in that doing is that a queue can easily become outdated and dead even as it moves throughout the day.
Writing a Social Media queue with four days of pending updates can quickly become a year behind within hours, so I try to keep my queue intact while peppering the pre-written updates with breaking news and a fresh peppering of notions in the moment.
There does come a time, though, when you need to stop the seasoning and allow a queue to age out and actually expire. There’s a terminal danger is letting a virtual queue die because you have to start all over again from nothing and you risk missing the next scheduled publication slot in the queue; but the actual emptying is the everything process goal, because the final thought in the queue needs its chance to find a life of its own in propagation beyond you and into the middle of the mindless social mesh for public square inspection.
Finally, the Ethereal queue is the most interesting, if not the most terrifying, because it’s a combination of all possible queues involving, and enrapturing, our mind and politics and religion and aesthetic and education and, above all, our learning.
The Ethereal queue is not a theory or a possibility — it is a fact, a human truth, that wraps up our every moment by challenging us to re-evaluate what we happen to think we know in a moment.
A mesmerizing, if heart-rending, example of this queue-of-all-queues appeared in this morning’s New York Times as Tova Mirvis shared the shards of her Jewish divorce:
But even from a young age, I had wondered: Is this all true? In the women’s section of the synagogue I looked at the women in their hats and asked myself, did they believe in the laws with all their hearts, all their souls, as they were commanded to? Did they ever wonder, as I did, if too much thinking could unravel the world?
Right there, in that magical, rhythmical and horrifying phrase — “too much thinking could unravel the world” — and our own universe is set spinning as we communally nod our heads in agreement with the devastating obvious.
We are nothing, if not for the order — the queuing, if you will — of how we decide to perceive, and interact with, the world of the others around us. First this, then that. To go out of order, to break the queue of belief of what is real and what must be known, is to live in a shattering void.
Norwegian Playwright Henrik Ibsen challenged us in 1867 with that very same notion in his masterful play, Peer Gynt, where “unraveling the world” was indicated in the systematical peeling away of the layers of an onion to reveal nothing at the center. Where once there was a whole, digging and twisting and asking too much, rendered the parts into bits of emptiness leaving only a shadow of what was once something.
As we continue to spin our Ethereal queues throughout the days, we will leap with inspiration and fall into regret and all of that is a necessary part of the mechanism for our ordering, because without the anticipation of a structure for our happenings, our experiences become less taught, and unbound, and there’s a social danger in a world without regulated touchstones, or a common core, or a shared risk where everyone stands together and, one-by-one, we take turns at the trough without fearing those standing in front of, or in back of, us.