Going deep takes time.
I recently got into a fight with a friend about busyness in which I used the line, “You are not a victim of your schedule.” She responded that her availability does not dictate how much values me. I disagreed: you MAKE time for what’s important, you HAVE time for what’s left. She responded that there are a lot of things I don’t know and that she can’t always control her schedule. “Yes,” I said, “there are lots of things I don’t know. But that’s not my fault.” I know, right? I wince, too, just retyping that.
Now, of course her busyness is none of my business. And I’m totally guilty of it, too. When this video about busyness came up in my Facebook feed, I debated about whether I had the three minutes to watch – I was behind on my work, I was late for a meeting, I hadn’t eaten lunch. (Wincing again.) And of course I know that things come up and you cannot always be in charge of your own time. But I stand by my statement that time, on some level, DOES indicate how much you value something or someone; if I chronically hear “I’m busy” from my friends (or worse: a promise to follow up but never a follow through and I’m supposed to assume a) they’re busy and b) that’s not a reason to get my feelings hurt), I start to feel like I’m lower on their to-do list…and it feels pretty yucky to be on a to-do list in the first place. I realize how counter-cultural this is (I reject the label “high standard” in favor of what I think it actually is), but I don’t actually care (I’ve never fit in anyway): busyness is not an excuse in my book for skipping out on relationship. At least not with me. Relationships, if done the way I believe they were made to be done, take time.
Generally, we seem to be aware of the problem. I have conversations with folks all the time about how technology was supposed to make our lives easier but it’s instead just enabled us to make our lives faster, which means we feel the pressure to cram more in, to be able to do it all with trusty technology as our sidekick. I think the problem is deeper, though. I think we’re addicted to busyness. Busyness is about more than meeting expectations; I think it’s about significance. We as a culture of consumers feel empty, listless and non-generative (with a little help from the advertisers and marketers). If we’re busy, perhaps we can stay just enough ahead of the void, the lack of purpose and meaning in our lives to be okay. But how much stuff crammed onto our calendars, how many clubs, meetings, activities, programs, groups, etc. is enough to fill the void that was not created by their absence in the first place?
It doesn’t make it any easier that it’s culturally and socially acceptable (encouraged, even) to say “I’m so busy,” when asked how you are. The above-linked video talks about how “busy” is the new “fine.” But what it didn’t say was that “fine” usually didn’t actually mean “fine.” “Busy” doesn’t actually mean “busy,” either. I think it means more than a longing to push pause, to find permission to unplug. Is it really that we want to “do nothing” or is it that we want to BE instead of having to “earn” our being by doing, to connect to what’s really important? We are human beings, after all, not human doings. We were not made to check off activities and race around to accomplish as much as possible and I think on some level, we feel this.
But what does “being” actually mean? I don’t think Sabbath is the antidote here – it always degenerates into another to-do item – though I am *not* advocating against rest. It seems to me that one thing we’ve lost is truly joy; but it was joy we were created for because it is joy we were created from. I think the “cure” for busyness is abundance of delight. God, we’re told, rested on the final “day” after making all that has been made and seeing that it was all good. But what did God do before? God fashioned all that has been made.
The creation stories do not read like a checklist to me; they read like a giddy child splashing about in a pool, or 1st-grade art class, where the kids all leave covered in finger paint and glitter. The cosmos was not made with a stopwatch in the name of efficiency – I mean, have we found the “end” of the universe yet? Nature – I see this most in springtime – is wastefully extravagant. With our time stretched as taut as we’re allowing it to be, not only is there no time for going deep.
One way to go deep is to waste. Relationships are not about efficiency – just look at the astounding world we’ve been put in: wedding-banquet-style blooms on trees that last but weeks, swarms of birds tossing about in the breeze, deep, deep oceans… Busyness will not be cured just by stopping and unplugging every once in a while, but by granting ourselves permission to be – that is, permission for joy: to play in life, to waste a little time. You might just find what you really want to use yours for.