In Praise of Idle Moments


 The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams from Tim Kreider in “The Busy Trap”

It’s a Thursday morning and I am blurry with a post World Series hangover of sorts. For the many of you who are not from the United States, the World Series is an annual event crowning the baseball season. Among sports enthusiasts in the U.S. this is a Big Deal. And this year the team who came out shining is the Boston Red Sox. This is My Team. I am not a sports enthusiast, but one of the things I’ve done in recent years is to try to understand the excitement that baseball garners in this part of the world. Call it an anthropological study if you will. This team, whose home field is walking distance from where I live, was my maternal grandma’s favorite. I needed to understand something of the magic if I was to live here, just like I needed to understand the love of soccer in Egypt, or cricket in Pakistan. And a surprising thing has happened– one that has taught me some good lessons about living cross- culturally in my passport country. It turns out I like this game they call “baseball”! I’ll write more on that in a later post because I think there are some good lessons to be explored.

But for now I’m taking a break.
It turns out that my post from Tuesday on the security blanket of busy touched an unexpected nerve. The words “I’m so busy” are deeply ingrained in our vocabulary, more so our actions. My cousin, Judi, said this “It’s more than ingrained…it’s like it is revered, prized, valued.” 

But beyond the words is how embedded this is in our psyche, in the fabric of who we are and the damage this does to our health, our creative abilities, and our friendships.

CS Lewis says “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

I will be honest — I have lacked inspiration for just about everything lately. I am doing mediocre work at my day job, I don’t feel I have much to share in person, and I am struggling to find inspiration in writing. I have glorified busy and I am reaping the fruits.

Perhaps you feel the same.

I think I need some idle moments. In idle moments I can step back and “see the whole” not just the fragmented parts. In idle moments I can gain wisdom and a heart for people. In idle moments I can hear God.

So I’m going to give you a bit of space from my writing, and me some necessary space from my own voice, and I am going to idle. I am going to have some idle moments and dreams!

How about you? Do you need time to be idle in the best possible way? To read and dream, to hear the voice of God? 

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

Blogger’s Note:  Robynn’s post from Friday will be published as planned on Friday – and I will see you soon! Thank you so much for entering my world through reading and commenting. It is a gift.

The Sweet Smell of Freedom Re-visited

Gas Mask
Tahrir Square Graffiti – A fight for freedom

On an October weekend over a year and a half ago I wrote a post I called “Waking Up to the Sweet Smell of Freedom”.  I remember well the day I wrote it. It was a holiday weekend and as I woke up to the strong smell of good coffee, I realized in an instant how different my life was from so many in the world that day. While this is not a new realization for me, it is a welcome reminder. Specifically, that post was about the pastor in Iran who was imprisoned at the time – Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Since that time he was freed, rearrested, and is now free again.

Today is Memorial Day in the United States and I am revisiting this sweet smell of freedom. It is the day set aside to honor military men and women who have fought for this country.  As someone who was not raised here and struggles with nationalism I struggle with a day like today.  I am tremendously grateful for those who serve. And I recognize that the freedom I wake to has a cost. The struggle comes as I think of what this country has done with freedom and the way we have warped the definition.

And today again I wake to the sweet smell of freedom. I wake to the awareness that I am a privileged person in a country of privilege.  I also wake to a world with a warped sense of what freedom means. We have changed the definition of freedom in the west to mean no boundaries, no barriers, ability to do whatever we want, when we want  – this is not freedom, as someone like Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani would likely tell us. The west is obsessed with freedom, with right to choose, with ‘self’ – yet I don’t see evidence of freedom in those around me. Most are bound by the angst that this definition of freedom brings about.

Our suicide rate has become a societal epidemic – yet we call ourselves free.

Our churches fight and argue and call each other by names both online and in person – yet we call ourselves free.

The national debt is to the sky in many western countries – yet we call ourselves free.

Our personal debt in both school loans and life spending continues to be a crisis and bind us to jobs we abhor – yet we call ourselves free.

Because freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever we want, whenever we want, with whomever we want. I can’t help thinking of the CS Lewis quote as I think about freedom as it is practiced today in my passport country – “The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded.”

And so I wake – I wake to the smell and taste of freedom and the challenge of figuring out what this really means.

What does it mean to you? How do you define freedom? How do those in the country where you live define freedom?