Depending on your cultural background, the words that you associate with past decades would probably elicit nods of appreciation and laughter from people who share the same memories. If you come from an unfortunate history, these key words could also elicit dread and sadness.
As the world becomes more globalized, the dominant notes that come out of the international business language in the 21st century are… you guessed it… “Everything’s good, it’s been very very busy!”
“Busy” is the contemporary affirmation that our lives are meaningful, I suppose. We strive to be busy, and glorify it. We fill up all our time with work, chores, social events, etc. to uphold our claim that we are too busy to do other things, like reaching out to old friends or doing something we’ve always wanted to do. Have you been meaning to travel for leisure for a few years, but always find yourself too “busy” to do so? Do you keep meaning to clean the mess in your garage, but other things keep getting in the way? Do you keep making promises to yourself to hit the gym or pick up your guitar, but never seem to find the time? If so, you are not alone. We are a generation of busy people who never take a moment to smell the flowers.
The profundity of “busy-ness” culture first struck me when I cheerily knocked on someone’s door to introduce myself and asked “do you have a minute?” The cold response that came back was, “I have only one minute.” I remember walking away from that exchange a little perplexed and wondering “is this really something to be proud of?”
Mark Twain is remembered for his quick wit, resolute political and social commentary, and wonderful stories. Few of us recall what he had to say about being busy. “If you have no time to rest,” he said, “it is exactly the right time.”
For those of us who believe in one of the 3 faiths of the Book, we’ve read time and time again that even God took the time to rest after all of His creation.
Why then is it so difficult for us to take a moment to breathe?
When I ask my friends this question, many of them are quick to respond that rest is not an option for those who strive for a good life. Working hard, in their opinion, requires consistency. Others might say that there’s too much to do and too little time to do it. It’s almost as though we are ashamed to say… “everything’s good, I took a break!”
I not only disagree with this; my opinion about it raises a quite dire concern. Juvenal wrote, “Give them bread and circuses, and they will never revolt.” Our “busy-ness” prevents us from taking the time to ponder and reflect. It blocks our creativity. It keeps us so occupied with what needs to be done, that we never question why we do it. This is the most dangerous ignorance of all.
We all know that a task performed with full focus and in flow often yields better results. When we push ourselves to stay busy, we yield less in the same time. We can’t come up with new ways or ideas by which to generate more of that wealth we seek in less time. We have no opportunity to challenge or improve our patterns. We also don’t have a chance to contemplate higher-order matters in our lives: Why are we here? What is our life’s purpose? What do we really believe in? What machine are we participating in churning?
Keeping people poor and occupied with work in order to fulfill material longings is the best way to keep people from questioning. By allowing ourselves to be fully immersed in this global culture, we choose to be followers on a trek to nowhere, or worse. Even more, when we do take the time to rest on a off-chance, we plaster ourselves on our couches with big bowls of chips and watch Netflix. We don’t know how to rest intentionally and, as a result, we don’t know how to reflect.
What did you do with your Sunday? If you write down all your activities, you can probably list them under one of two categories: (1) I was striving for my bread or (2) I was seeking entertainment. You are either working, or at the circus. In both cases, you have no opportunity to think, ponder, question, or indulge in gratitude. In this way, we live passively; never happy enough to be truly fulfilled, and never aware enough of our misery to revolt.
This is my food for thought on the day of rest. Take the time to charge your batteries. Reflect on the bigger picture. Be intentional about how you rest so that you can gain perspective. It is only in this way that we can grow from what we are into what we will become. It is the only way that we can change our world for the better.
And remember… we design our own luck!