Be-ing



So I’m sitting here in the calm of this mild autumn evening while my other half is out catching up with the girls.

I’ve already made (warmed up is a better word) and ate my dinner, watched a few YouTube videos, checked my running sheet for Sunday’s morning service, cleaned out the utensil drawer, downloaded a few more Spotify playlists, read parts of three different books, made some salt and vinegar almonds, drank a beer, checked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram numerous times, and now I’m listening to the Tony Bennet / Lady Gaga album ‘Cheek to Cheek.’

I’ve run out of stuff to do.

Or am I bored?

No, not bored because my mum always said that if you’re bored it’s because you can’t stand your own company. I love my own company. 

I love my own company better if my honey is with me.

(Wow! Lady Gaga’s got a great voice. Did you catch her Sound of Music tribute at the Oscars this year? I never knew she could actually sing like real songs, classic stuff.)

Now I’m reminding myself of that dog with the dog-to-human translator in the movie ‘Up’ who gets distracted by a squirrel in the middle of a conversation. (Vicki and I have made the word ‘squirrelling’ synonymous with getting sidetracked in the middle of a task … which is kind of what I’m doing right now. “Look! Squirrel!”)

Back to being on my own.

I was listening to the ‘Wilosophy’ podcast on the way to work, the episode where Will Anderson spends over an hour bantering with Dr Karl. They discuss everything from what is taught in High School to politics, unemployment, the economy science (of course! For those non-Aussies, he’s the Australian Bill Nye). Dr Karl spent some time explaining how the mainstream media works and how we have defaulted to allowing Big Business to dictate what we hear, see and how we live. Because of the way our ‘toys’ have been marketed to us and made more and more affordable–not to mention ‘necessary’– our attention span (and our contentment span) is getting shorter and shorter.

One day we’ll all think only in 90-second blocks and have sub-100 IQs.

At least that what’s Dr Karl thinks.

I believe he’s on to something.

He also says that we tend to feel guilty if we’re not productive. We seem to judge down-days where we just sleep, eat and relax as ‘wasted.’ He sees these times as necessary for wellbeing and won’t consider any downtime as non-productive.

But we’ve been conditioned to believe we need to ‘do’ stuff, ‘achieve’ status, and ‘earn’ accolades and respect. 

That’s too much of a burden for every day.

I’m warming to the idea of Sabbath. The ancients would set aside one day when no work would be done, nothing would be cooked, and people would travel nowhere. Millennia later, we have lost this concept in our desire to feel like we accomplished something worthwhile . . . every day . . . every minute of every day.

We need Sabbath. Downtime. ‘Do nothing’ time.

Instead of doing, we simply need to be. Be present. Be with ourselves. Be at peace. Be content. 

Take time. Steal it, if we must, from our ‘busy’ lives.

Just to be . . . . 

Just. Simply. Only be-ing, not do-ing. 

Which brings me back to tonight.

I’m not that good at be-ing.Especially be-ing alone.

I would rather be do-ing (as you can tell by my long list of ‘squirrel’ moments at the top of this page.)

But, for the rest of my alone-time tonight, I’m going to attempt quietly sitting here with a glass of something or another and entering into a place of be-ing. Listening to some chilled tunes. And just being. Resting. Relax . . . Look! Squirrel!

(This isn’t gonna be easy.)

Work

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:19)

I was walking my dog around the local pond recently when I saw a father with his two small daughters riding along the bike path toward me. The Dad was steering his bike one-handed while talking on his cell phone, using the tone of voice I think of as “business-pompous.”  The two girls pedaled behind him silently.

Just after they passed me, I spotted a mother duck and baby ducks swimming around in circles and squawking at the water’s edge. Exactly the kind of thing you take young children to a pond to see.  What other spontaneous, kid-appropriate, free-of-charge Nature sights would they miss before they went home?  The big ugly carp circling under the footbridge?  The flock of geese coming in for a water landing?

Maybe that father regularly takes his children on hikes and bike rides and walks, pointing things out to them, or just talking, and that day on the cell phone was not how it usually was. When my kids were young, I was certainly too distracted much of the time to notice plenty of great sights I could have pointed out to them. Everyone survived.

And I know every profession has its version of business-pompous that people are required to speak if they want to get ahead.  There’s nothing wrong with working hard and doing what it takes to support yourself and your family.

But the Sunday bike-riding Dad on the cell phone reminded me of a term coined by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.  “Sunday neurosis,” he said, is “that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.”

Frankl wrote in the 1940’s; today, technology means we need never be freed from the work week. People complain about this, often with an undercurrent of self-congratulation: see how important I am? But sometimes there’s a less obvious undercurrent—one of relief.  How much of our checking our various devices for the latest from work is really necessary, and how much is instead a rush to fill some emptiness?

Distract us from work, help us change the subject, show us that we are more than our jobs.  Show us some ducks by the edge of a pond.  Amen.

Reflection by Christina Villa, from StillSpeaking