The other day as I was going into Market Basket to do my food shopping (where I can save almost 20% over Stop and Shop…yes this is a brazen plug!) a woman in the parking lot began to chat with me. She was a lovely, older lady, articulate and clearly not afraid to speak with strangers. I remarked how refreshing it was to chat with someone spontaneously and how sad it is that everyone seems to be in a rush. Before we parted in the store I did a double-take over something she said. I thanked her for she reminded me that our willingness to connect, however superficially, was a sign that I had not lost my faith in humanity.
Rushing around seems to define our society. The economic downturn has taught companies and government agencies that people threatened with job loss will do almost anything to keep them, especially if prospects for new jobs are dim. Downsized employee pools did not correspond to downsized workloads. Now fewer people are working more hours to try to accomplish more than ever before and it shows in the quality of our relationships and in a maniacal rush to get nowhere fast.
The other side of the coin is restlessness. We have more time and choices than any group of people in the history of mankind. Yet we don’t seem to be satisfied. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, a Roman Catholic priest and spiritual writer, shows this discrepancy in his book The Restless Heart when he writes: “Given [our] affluence and leisure time, we almost automatically focus more on our psychic and spiritual needs—-or we spend a lot of time and money trying to distract ourselves from having to focus.” (9)
Donald Clymer writes in the December 2013 issue of Presence that instead of seeking a transcendent relationship that will bring us peace and spiritual solace we get into sports, entertainment media, Internet, sex, booze, food, and drugs. Our culture of advertising exploits is set up to exploit this need for distractions, and we fall for it wholeheartedly. The result is a spiritual void with an unquenchable restlessness….The luxury of time and choice results in contemplating our success or lack of it. It makes us consider our potential rather than our spirituality. We tend to compare ourselves to others who have accomplished more than we have, leaving us empty. Rolheiser writes that ”this ‘emptiness’ so often propels us outward into restless and frantic activity as we try to quench a thirst in us that well not quench and satiate a hunger that will not be satiated” (93) Our persistent activities are speeding up our lives in a restless race to get to the next place, leaving our souls no chance to catch up. (25-26)
So what have I discovered in all of this? First I am just as caught in the frenetic activity and restless spirit that many others are. Second I need to take the time to collect my thoughts in silence and focus my breathing and core and make this effort daily. This means overcoming the automatic feelings of restlessness that accompany being still. Third this spiritual work never ends and we never get to a place of completion.
So what about you? Thanksgiving is over. Are you trapped in the Christmas frenzy? Or are you clearing a different path for yourself and focusing on your transcendent spirit? Tell us!
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I am proud of you Michael. You conveyed your point very well. Sad, but true, we are all victims.