How Far Can You Imagine?

In the March 5, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten reports on “Magic Mountain: What happens at Davos?” (I’m not sure if a paywall prevents public readership.) Davos refers to the five-day, invitation only, annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, (WEF) which its web site says includes, “a cast of the world’s intellectual, business, arts, cultural and social giants.”

The Forum’s motto is, “committed to improving the state of the world.” The topics are as diverse as the world’s problems: Europe’s crises, the world financial system, chronic unemployment, widening wealth disparity, global poverty, armed conflict, the mistreatment of women, climate change, human health, international trade, water, Haiti, the Middle East, education, among many others. So many, many problems.

Klaus Schwab, a German academic, organized the original predecessor to the current WEF in 1971, and it has grown ever since. The New Yorker reports that the meeting is all about connections, and that Mr. Schwab may well be the most well-connected man in the world.

Over the five days of this year’s forum, Mr. Schwab had 156 commitments. That amounts to 31.2 per day. For a 14-hour day, it is  2.23 per hour, and for a more modest 10-hour day, it is 3.12 per hour.

I just wrote about discovering freedom in retirement, implying that the absence of commitments along with a resulting solitude helps a person create an ordinary life, the acceptance of which constitutes a real freedom.

After reading The New Yorker’s report, I peeked at my calendar. Over the five days of the WEF meeting back in January, I had three commitments. This week I have four.

I tried to imagine what Mr. Schwab’s world might be like with so many commitments, and I tried to imagine the larger world without so many problems. Neither image formed well in my mind, so I went for a walk.

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