Reading through some of my old books today and looking back on the treasures I underlined.
Here's one, written in 1981 - 42 years ago, 2 years before the internet was invented, 23 years before social media became popular, 26 years before the first i-phone was invented. Picture life without those things ... how on earth could people have been busy then?
Listen to the angst:
"One of the most obvious characteristics of our daily lives is that we are busy. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make, and appointments to keep. Our lives often seem like over-packed suitcases bursting at the seams. In fact, we are almost always aware of being behind schedule. There is a nagging sense that there are unfinished tasks, unfulfilled promises, unrealized proposals. There is always something else that we should have remembered, done, or said. There are always people we did not speak to, write to, or visit. Thus, although we are very busy, we have a lingering feeling of never really fulfilling our obligations ...
Beneath our worrying lives, however, something else is going on. While our minds and hearts are filled with many things, and we wonder how we can live up to the expectations imposed upon us by ourselves and others, we have a deep sense of unfulfillment.
While busy and worried about many things, we seldom truly feel satisfied, at peace, at home. A gnawing sense of being unfulfilled underlies our filled lives ... The great paradox of our time is that many of us are busy and bored at the same time. While running from one event to the next, we wonder in our innermost selves if anything is really happening.
While we can hardly keep up with our many tasks and obligations, we are not so sure that it would make any difference if we did nothing at all. While people keep pushing us in all directions, we doubt anyone really cares.
In short, while our lives are full, we are unfulfilled."(Henri Nouwen)
Not gonna' try to put a bow on this one. Just gonna' let this deep insight into the human condition sit for now.
Read it once, then perhaps again.
Does any of it resonate with you?
As you pore over the parts of this reading that sting, ask yourself:
If I could, how would I alter my days, how would I alter my ways, in order to not suffer in this particular way?
At the same time you ask this, remember that our lives are now even more full and - at times - even more banal. We now have almost 1800 cable TV channels from which to choose. Most working folks spend over 2.5 hours a day on e-mail. And ... another 2.5 hours a day on social media. No wonder we are frazzled, frantic, and wickedly sleep-deprived.
The author of the book from which I pulled this Henri Nouwen quote has a few ideas about how we can step out of this self-created frantic way of living. Some practices that can help us develop a deeper sense of perspective, a stronger sense of purpose, and a greater sense of living from an internal compass.
What might it look like to live a centered life, as opposed to always jumping just because our culture says jump, or always running because our culture says run, or always staring at a phone just because everyone else is staring at a phone?
Stay tuned ...