Thursday, May 06, 2010


"Time is life's fundamental necessity but has become the ultimate luxury--the most expensive and extravagant thing we have. We're in a time famine; we don't need more free time as much as we need more time that is free from desires and demands. No matter what we may think, technology doesn't so much give us more time as enable us to do many more things in the time that we have. In addition, technology makes us more enslaved to work, not less. You don't have to walk far on a crowded beach to find somebody busy at a laptop. What we need is more sabbaticals--time to learn and explore the secrets of the soul. I am not talking about the 'year-off-for-research-and-study' type of sabbatical. I am talking about mini-sabbaticals that are skinny-dips in the fountain of youth. There are three important s's for sabbaticals: stillness, silence, and saying no. Music encompasses and embraces silence though it is made of sound. The rests are what make notes possible. It's the same with life. We need lots of time with nothing to do. Souls are drawn to stillness the way objects are drawn to the ground, the way sounds are drawn to silence." -Leonard Sweet, Summoned To Lead

I've struggled for years with saying, 'no.' At first, it was difficult and then gradually--when my self began reaping the benefits of what saying 'no' meant for it--it got much easier. I think people, in general, are on a continuum when it comes to saying 'no' to others with respect to their own time for silence and solitude: there are those who risk being overly isolated and those who fear isolation at any cost. I think years ago, I was in the latter category. I didn't know how to appreciate alone time, silence, even. As Madeleine L'Engle would say, 'I knew how to be a human doing, but not a human being.'

In today's technological boom-of-an-age, I can't help but think how more interaction through technology and social networking sites doesn't give us more time to be with people, or relate socially, but less. This is not a slam at today's world, only a minor critique of it (and of myself). In a way, we're so connected (and are determined to stay so connected) to our phones, our emails, our computers, we forget what to do (or rather, how to be and live life, in silence, in conversation, in the company of others), when we're away from these devices.

How many times have you been sitting on your couch and for no apparent (pressing) reason, you've thought, "I should check my email." Even though you've been checking it all day long, there still is that need, that urgency, to stay connected, to stay in touch. Ironically, I wonder how out-of-touch this is making us. Not just as people but as societies.

Maybe that's why I like the line in Sweet's book, "We need lots of time with nothing to do" so much. It speaks to everyone of us and is something to remember the next time we're sitting in front of a TV not knowing what we're watching or we're reading Wikipedia on our iPhone trying to find out what "pumice" is, or we're simply scanning through emails and spamming the ones we don't want to read. All of these acts maybe something but they turn to nothing at the end of the day. Whereas, Sweet argues, nothing (or stillness and silence), is something that wouldn't turn to nothing by the day's end.

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