Monday, November 29, 2010

Rethinking the Mundane

Not enough people reconsider what is taken for granted. Take for instance a commuter train. How much has truly changed about a commuter train in the past 100 years? I would say not much, especially not much in the way of revolutionary changes.

I, and others, would argue that it is the mundane and matter of fact aspects of materials and life that should be questioned in order for society to evolve. All too often changes in society occur in minute aspects of our technology and culture. For instance, how we light our houses has not changed all that radically for we still use an object that looks remarkably similar to the traditional light bulb and affix it in all too common places within our dwellings that would not be unlike that of a home say 100 years ago. How we light our homes has not changed, but small aspects of the technology have.

Returning to commuter trains, I look to three aspects that could be changed. These aspects are in different orders of scale and none have answers; often I find it more productive and difficult to pose a question than an answer, for at least an answer can generate a dialogue that did not previously exist.

The first aspect is how a train travels. The triplet form of traveling consists of ground, water, and air. These are exclusive from one another and presuppose us into thinking there are not other forms. Instead of asking how we can make an engine go faster or a route be streamlined to increase a train's efficiency, why not look to another way it can travel. Is there a fourth way to travel? By looking at this issue, the feasibility and possibility of traveling greater distances and over more difficult terrain and conditions can be lessened. Further, my hope and wish for trains (speaking of commuter not commercial trains) to be used in connecting Canadian cities may become more realistic as much of the Canadian countryside can be rough and the cities are widely spread apart.

The second question is how people fit into the train. In the city in which I reside the commuter trains are often packed, leaving a few unfortunate stragglers behind to wait for (hopefully) the next less full train. In response to this perceived problem, can people fit into a train in such a way that there is more room for other people? This problem asks if people currently ride a train via the most efficient way. The two ways currently employed is to either sit or stand. Passenger trains that go long distances have cots, or so I've seen in movies. This would be a third way to 'fit into a train', but are there other ways?

Lastly, people enter trains through rectangular doors that are evenly spaced across the facade of a train. However, is this the only way people can enter a train? Do the doors have to be placed in such a way and can they take a different shape? Often I see a bottleneck form as people furiously try to get into the train before it departs. Can the doors be rearranged or reshaped to prevent such bottlenecks? The reduction of these bottlenecks would decrease the time it takes for a train to reach its destination as the time required for passengers to board is now reduced.

I must reiterate that I do not have the answers to these questions. It is not folly either to offer a question and no answer. Exercises such as these aid in people noting the issues in their world that can be improved upon; to be tinkered with. It is through such actions that realizations occur and motivations are sprung into working towards finding answers to such new found problems. I feel that these exercises of thought are not encouraged in our school systems and places of work. Instead, children and adults are bombarded by questions that demand answers and a study that produces only more questions is deemed a failure. This is not the case and such thoughts should be discouraged. Instead, challenge yourself to look at issues and items taken for granted in new ways. View the world from the perspective of an outsider and ask it basic questions. Otherwise, we will only be wishing for change and producing nothing but the same in a different color.

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