Do you ever wake up in the morning and just think, “No. Today just… no”? Today was one of those days for me. I woke to a dozen messages on my phone from a number of people asking for this or that, things to post on my computer, laundry to do at home, work to go to go, errands to run, etc. etc. Most of my days are like this, and the truth is if you’re a young adult today, chances are that most of yours are too. We’re busy. We’re busy all the time. A friend sent me a message to ask how I was doing and I replied with an itinerary. She pointed out, very sweetly, the question was about how I am not what I’m doing. This is the most telling thing about my state of mind most of the time – it’s always preoccupied with the doing of things, what’s past, what’s going on now, what’s up next. Isn’t that how we all think though? We define ourselves by our jobs, professions, and roles. The first thing you’ll be asked when meeting someone new or someone you haven’t met in a while will inevitably be “so, what are you doing?” All my friends complain that they have too much on their plates and can’t cope with everything going on, yet we all feel that tinge of guilt on the rare occasion we have a day off yet don’t use it for anything ‘productive’.
We define ourselves by our jobs, professions, and roles
The thing is, it’s not being busy that I really have an issue with. I’m more busy than I’d like to be, sure, but that says more about my priorities and my sense of time management than it does about my culture. What I am concerned about is that most of us aren’t just busy, but have a pre-occupation with busy-ness. We’re always on the go – moving, eating, watching, reading, working, planning, travelling, spending, -ing, -ing, -ing. We’ve become consumers relentlessly chewing on information fed to us in newsfeeds and endlessly scrolling down little screens beaming more and more news, stories, videos, comments, statuses, selfies (oh, the selfies!), cats, dogs, memes, vlogs, blogs, and ads into our restless brains. And there’s always more. More of more. Welcome to the age of information debauchery.
I work with media every day, and I think it’s done us a lot of good. We’re more connected, more aware, and more educated than any previous point in history. But you know what? I don’t know how to rest any more. I don’t know what it means to be bored. I don’t know what silence sounds like. Even though I can pick up my phone or computer and chat with anyone I know, near or far, there is a persistent sense of isolation as these messages don’t tie up with actual people, but rather the idea of people. I have access to everything and everyone but none of it is real. I never take that time to really sit down and process all this information I’m gorging on each and every single day. I think the reason so many mindfulness and meditation apps have become popular is because of this same reason (also can we just appreciate the subtle irony that everything has to be available as an app, even the ability to rest).
What I am concerned about is that most of us aren’t just busy, but have a pre-occupation with busy-ness
In John 1:35-42 Jesus encounters his first disciples, and he asks them is “What are you looking for?” In our every day hustle and bustle, do we take the time to step out of the madness and ask ourselves what’s the driving force behind all of this, or does it simply degenerate into an effort to just get through the day? In an age where no one has time for anything that hasn’t been pre-booked in a Google calendar three weeks in advance, are we taking stock of how we’re doing mentally? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Why do you do what you do every day? What do you want to achieve with your life? How do you feel about where you are now? What do you care about? We have more tools and more knowledge than ever before to achieve whatever we set our minds to. But these can be tools for building and bettering ourselves and those around us, or they can be, as a lecturer of mine often likes to say, tools of distraction. Perhaps if we let Jesus’ question today sink into our hearts and minds we could find it within ourselves to make room in our lives for what really matters. Let us not be undone by doing more with less purpose, but let us do less with more purpose.