I am on a planning committee for next year’s fall retreat at our University called Breakaway. The theme for the weekend will be “rest.” Several faculty members have been asked to speak about how they “do” (or not do, as the case may be) rest. This got me thinking about the difference between living an “active” life and living a “busy” life.
Students hate when teachers give them “busy-work.” It seems like everytime I ask someone how they’re doing he/she either responds with, “I’m tired” or “I’m busy.” George Costanza (Seinfeld) convinced his colleagues that he was a very active worker just by looking busy. Even the Veggie Tales have a song “I’m busy, so busy, much too busy for you” to potray the religious folks who by-passed the beaten man in the Good Samaritan story. I get the feeling that we perceive a great correlation between productiveness and busy-ness.
I want to lead an active life; I want to encourage my students to lead an active life. But I’m done being busy. If it looks like I’m not busy, then good. Probably, I’m not. Maybe I’m contemplating something about the day; maybe I’m praying with my eyes open; or, maybe I’m remembering my only home run in Little League (July, 10, 1988). Regardless, I’m not interested in “looking” like I’m busy.
I have lived the busy life: filling every moment of every day with stuff. I would write things down on a to-do list just so I could cross it off–like eating breakfast. Sometimes I would grade a stack of papers, then look at my to-do list and notice that I did not have “grade papers” on my to-do list. So, I would quickly write down “grade papers” on my list and then cross it off.
Don’t mistake my comments: Work is good, to-do lists can be helpful, and being involved in the body is a part of our spiritual calling. But, all of this well-intentioned work can just lead to busy-ness: doing “things” just for the sake of doing “things.”
I want my life to be intentional and significant. This, to me, is the spiritually active life.
the elder