(Extra)ordinary Article 005: Make Change Happen

  • I’m partial to a red panda. Mostly because they are so darn cute. It’s like the cute parts of a cat, a panda, a raccoon, and a bear cub all swirled together. Recently, I had red pandas on my mind so I did what most people nowadays do: I looked it up on the Internet. Amidst all of the short videos of red pandas, I kept seeing the Google suggestion for ‘red panda documentary.’ This quickly led me to a wonderful little documentary entitled ‘Cherub of the Mist.’
  • Cherub of the Mist is about two red pandas that are released into the wild and it follows their challenges trying to find mates and survive. I watched the film. It is a little under an hour long. After I finished it, I was struck by how much work they put into this little film.
  • The red panda is not the easiest animal to film in the wild. Not to mention there are very few left in the wild. So, making a documentary where your sole focus is red pandas is quite the challenge. It took them 2 years to film all of the footage and if you watch the finished documentary, you’ll notice they comment on a lot of things that are ‘firsts of their kind.’ So, they accomplished an amazing feat: they captured footage of an extremely elusive animal that no one had ever captured before and were able to present it to tell an engaging story, all the while raising awareness about endangered species.
  • It took them about two years. And it took me an hour to watch it. That’s 0.0057% of the time it took for them to make it.
  • This often happens when you create something and present it to the world. There is a fundamental difference between the time to make something and the time to experience something someone else made. Let’s call this difference the Observer Percentage (or OP for short). For ‘Cherub of the Mist,’ the OP is 0.0057%; the time it took me to experience the documentary is 0.0057% of the time it took for the documentary to be made.
  • When you make something, it takes a lot of work. You need an idea and you need to plan how you are going to execute it. You need equipment and resources to gather information and understand your topic. And you need to present it to others in an understandable and engaging manner. All of this takes time. A lot of time.
  • As another example, consider Christian Marclay’s art installation, The Clock. The piece is a continuous movie displaying thousands of clips that all relate to the current time of day. So, if you walk inside the viewing room at 4:07 pm, there will be some sort of clip that relates to 4:07 pm. The piece takes its clips from movies, TV shows, and other sources, and it took about three years to complete. Three years of gathering clips and connecting them together, getting the sound right, syncing up the clips with a clock, and presenting it as an art installation. It is a masterful creation.
  • But let’s look at it in terms of Observer Percentages. Even if you went to one of the 24-hour showings, the OP would only be 0.091%. When 'The Clock' came to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I went and watched it for about five hours. So my OP for The Clock is only 0.0019%.
  • This makes me wonder why anyone makes anything. Why put so much time into something someone will experience for only a fraction of the time? Why put so much effort into something that will be experienced so quickly? I think the reason we put so much effort into making things is that during the small amount of time someone experiences your creation, you can affect them in very profound ways.
  • When you have people experience a creation you have made, you are able to change how they think about all sorts of things. ‘Cherub of the Mist’ exposed me to the difficult challenges that face Red Pandas as well as the general challenge of conservation of endangered species. ‘The Clock’ let me experience time, a constant presence in my life, in a way I had never experienced before. And it doesn’t stop there. There is so much time and effort put into all sorts of aspects of your life.
  • - Restaurants spend several hours prepping for you to come and eat a meal for 45 minutes (OP: 10.71%).
    - Singers spend months perfecting a song you will finish in four minutes (OP: 0.0015%).
    - Filmmakers spend years making a story that can be viewed in two hours (OP: 0.011%).
    - Scientists spend years on experiments only to have people read papers about them in a few hours (OP: 0.0086 %).
  • And even though you may, as an observer, only put in a marginal amount of time or effort, you can be profoundly affected. You can have a very memorable meal. You can relate very deeply and emotionally to a song or film. You can get fascinated by a new scientific discovery. When you make something, you can make change happen. And that is why we will never have a shortage of people making new things, new ideas, new discoveries. The feeling of making change happen is so invigorating. It drives others to make discoveries and inventions. It is wonderful to feel that you have made change happen.
  • So try in your life to make change happen. And notice the amount of time and effort other people put into making change happen.
  • It may take a lot of work, but the reward is worth it.
  • From the initial idea (a post simply about red pandas) to the final presentable product (a post about time, effort, and making things), this post took about 10 days to make.
  • Considering this post’s word count (about 1000 words) and the average reading speed (300 words per minute), the OP for the average reader is about 0.028%. Or 4 minutes.
  • I hope you had a memorable 4 minutes.