Slow Down and Hear the Music
Father Thomas Lane wrote a poem that focuses on our pace in life — the effect of busyness and the need to slow down. I have chosen to begin this article with some of his thoughts from this poem which he included in his Sunday morning homily.
Do you run through each day?
When you ask, “How are you,” do you hear the reply?
When the day is done do you lie in bed
with the next hundred chores running through your head?
Ever told your children we’ll do it tomorrow
and in your haste, not see their sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die
because you never had time to call and say “Hi?”
You’d better slow down; don’t dance so fast.
Time is short and the music won’t last.
Today it seems everyone’s favorite response to the common, probing introductory question, “How are you?” is this: “I’m busy! Very busy!” Of course, many of us are truly busy. At times we find we are stretching ourselves razor thin, fulfilling the necessary obligations of life: tending to our jobs and families, addressing the infinite list of errands and to-dos, scheduling time for exercise, home schooling, and volunteer work. The list goes on. Endlessly. An article in the New York Times by Tim Kreider reports that we have become so busy with keeping ourselves busy that we’re drained. He claims we believe that without being able to point to an impressive life of endless activity, we fear risking a life of little or no value.
As Catholics we speak of the inestimable worth of human life, not because of what it does – or has the potential to do – but because it is made in the image and likeness of God. We are of infinite worth because God says we are. Somehow, though, that subtle little lie starts to creep in that says our actions make us worthy, that what we do makes us more lovable in the eyes of God. However, we are not what we do. Relying on our actions to validate our worth in God’s eyes is a serious mistake. Labeling ourselves more lovable because of things we’ve done is as much a problem as labeling ourselves unworthy because of a failure to do certain things. Our good acts can become emptied of love, an attempt to win God’s favor rather than express our love for God and others. So perhaps our busyness and activity keep us from authentic loving. We have to keep reminding ourselves that no matter what we do – no matter how good or noble the action – it should always be done as a response to God’s love, not a plea for it. To put it another way– love must always be in all we do, not forcing us to love in order to be loved. But loving doesn’t have to be an obviously outstanding, spectacular action. It can be signs or words of gratitude, simple conversations with friends and even rejuvenating activities.
What can we do to ensure our lives of busyness don’t lead to exhaustion rather than spiritual energy? Spiritual writers continue to tell us that we must build into our lives a space for prayer, reflection and a time of silence so we can listen to the voice of Love. How can we honestly say we’re Christ’s followers if we don’t allow Christ to guide us in what to do or not to do? We must listen to God’s directives which might lead us into something new and better.
Thomas Merton wrote: “We do not live merely in order to ‘do something’ – no matter what. We do not live fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more. We need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do, see, taste and experience much less than usual.”
Reflect for a moment upon the gospel story of Mary and Martha. Jesus knew that Martha had a lot on her plate and was focused on doing, staying busy with the household duties. But what Jesus wanted was that the troubled Martha not keep busying herself for him, but just to sit and spend time receiving from him. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching and received the approval for choosing the better part. We also need, at times, to choose the “better part.” We don’t want to always be busy with things that, in the long run, will turn out to be nothing more than busywork. Let our world move from a list of busy things to a circle of activities that give us and others love and peace.
“Don’t dance so fast. Time is short and the music won’t last!