As a child of the digital age, I have been trained from a tender age to conflate urgency with importance. If the phone rings, pick it up. If there is an email, read it; reply to it. And if there is a video of adorable cats, or a courageous young person, or an analysis of the latest political crisis – I just have to watch it.
In imitation of Twitter, my life often feels like an endless stream of very urgent items. Each one demands my attention intensely, and briefly. It is easy to spend my days flitting from one urgent task to the next, never stopping to even notice that I am alive, or that there are other living people around me. I adapt myself so completely to the demands of my devices that I become machine-like in the way I pay attention.
Sometimes I long to get off the merri-go-round of task orientation. I imagine how peaceful it might be to simply focus on one task, one experience, one person for an entire day. Or nothing at all. What would it feel like to simply be, without a need to produce or achieve anything?
There have been days that I’ve sat aside for the purpose of having no purpose besides being present with God and other people. No agenda, no objective; just presence. It’s always lovely for the first hour or so. I drink my tea. I read a book. I look out the window and think about the world.
But then I get to thinking. There is so much to get done! I begin planning what I will do once this time of restful being is completed. I start making checklists. And before I know it, I’m busy planning the future and organizing tasks on my sabbath day.
Have you had this experience? Do you find it difficult to go a whole day without any kind of agenda or goals? How do you avoid turning rest into yet another activity, another mountain to be climbed? How can we find our way into hours, days, even weeks, of unhurried presence and wakefulness before God?