America is a nation of speed and efficiency, invention and progression, industry and ingenuity. Most of all, it is a nation in motion, forging ahead, foot glued to the clutch beneath an "ain't nobody gonna take my pride, ain't nobody gonna hold me down, oh no ... I've got to keep on movin'" mantra.
When the horse and buggy no longer sufficed, we cranked out a Model T. When the assembly line couldn't keep pace with escalating impatience, Orville and Wilbur Wright went to work on a flying device. When 767s couldn't get us from Kennebunkport to Kalamazoo in time to catch the latest episode of "Friends," the Lear Jet nudged its way into mainstream. The same holds for computers and telephones and any other concrete staple of American existence. When something broke, we not only fixed it but found a way to make it infinitely better so it never broke again.
Unfortunately, as every last one of us has learned over seven excruciatingly long days, there is no whiz-bang, cutting-edge gadget to accelerate the grieving process.
Emotional pain is different: abstract but acutely palpable, never capable of being captured in Cliffs Notes. It must run its course in every mourning soul. The course has no shortcuts and no predictable completion time. For a few that time was Wednesday morning. For others it may arrive this week. For some the agony will prove interminable.
When is it appropriate to laugh out loud again? To go to a football game? To stop feeling depressed?
I can't answer for anyone except the man in the mirror (and I'm not even sure myself), but no diversion, distraction, or forced return to normalcy will ease the struggle to reindoctrinate oneself into everyday existence.
Sports are no exception. The college football coaches who insisted that the games must go on are tricking themselves into believing that athletics are the antidote for heartache. The wool they pull over their eyes hides the truth that football diverts, distracts and entertains, but doesn't heal.
Sports can make you smile - even cheer - but they can't conquer the personal demons that stalk about the inner sanctum of nearly every American psyche.
New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins still throws an incredulous gaze east before and after every practice, reaffirming the image of billowing smoke still filling the void left by the decimation of the World Trade Center towers, once the touchstone of a free market society.
It is in that vein that I applaud nearly every sports organization for postponing or canceling their events last weekend.
I seriously considered the merits of playing weekend games as late as Wednesday. As so many others can attest to, though, and as the sporting majority expressed, that awful hollowness we expected to whittle away as the minutes passed only worsened. Numbness became melancholy. Disbelief turned to depression.
So what makes this week the right time for sports to spring back to life? It's an unanswerable question with a horde of arbitrary attempts at explanation. Maybe it's just that American penchant for movement, though not everyone is ready to move with it.
The games have already marched on. They renewed last night, replete with Barry Bonds' home-run chase, the National League wild card race and the Seattle Mariners record pace.
Some will embrace competition as a symbol of normalcy recaptured. Others will allow themselves the momentary distraction, only to reenter their altered state. Still others will never know their previous life ... and may never know sports the same way again.
If only pain ran a five-minute mile, then pontificating and pondering and weeping and wondering wouldn't be necessary. We could - in the American spirit - move on without asking if there is justification for doing so. We could be like we were.
I'm not sure that's possible now.