Western civilization seems obsessed with efficiency. Of course, high efficiency is no guarantee of high effectiveness. You can be very efficient at doing the wrong thing, and it will get you nowhere fast; or worse yet, actually farther away from what is desirable. Western civilization’s desire to quantify every thing can become a distraction by leading us to ignore those things that are difficult to quantify. I would posit that the most important things in life are difficult to quantify, and at some point trying to quantify them will likely do more harm than good. What would be a unit of love, friendliness, hope, trust, courage, integrity, or humor? Yep, sometimes dissecting something kills it!
I must admit that I am a big fan of blessed inefficiency! The best things in life — a good meal, making love, a good joke, or all three — are not good subjects for efficiency. Time wasted that is enjoyed is not wasted. I like the variously attributed quote, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” Joy is a singularly better marker for guiding success than any quantitative measure. So, how many units of joy have you experienced today?
In this poem, there is a stark contrast between quantity and quality. The efficiency expert inquires with numbers in mind, typically assuming that more is better. The poet takes one hour, but one hour, as all that they have; and such a profound limitation can provide clarity and depth of which an efficiency expert may not even dream. The answer: a singular poem OR one poem per hour. Is not the answer clear?
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau, from Walden (a read I would highly recommend as an antidote to frenetic modern civilization)