Published by Michael Bigg on Tue, 12 Sep 2017 11:53

On Monday mornings on Radio 4 at the moment there is a brilliant little series called Oliver Burkeman is Busy. It's a collection of 15 minute reflections in which the presenter (Oliver Burkeman) is exploring how the cult of busyness is affecting our lives. I encourage you to find the time to have a listen.

He's spent some time looking at the "fetishisation of busyness", that compulsion many of us have to be constantly busy (or, at least, to be perceived as busy!) and to value ourselves in terms of busyness. He discovers that constant busyness does not, in fact, translate into more productivity (it's often the opposite) and comes at quite a cost. However, we often find ourselves caught up in an arms race of busyness that will only ever end in destruction.

There's also a fascinating episode entitled "In Praise of Idleness", which explores the virtues of deliberately un-busy activity. Things like walking, fishing, doing a puzzle that occupy our minds on one level but leave our minds free on another level to process what is going on in our lives and to make connections that would otherwise not be made.

The show is a very secular take on the topic, but one thing Oliver Burkeman notes is that every Rabbi he meets says the same thing when asked: "What's the most important of the 10 Commandments for our age?" Every one of the responds with: "Keep the Sabbath". Deliberately carving out time set aside for doing nothing of worldly consequence is crucial for our own lives. Going for a walk, reading, playing a game, sitting in the garden - all of these are a form of prayer through which we make mental space for God to speak to us through the frenetic activity of our lives.

I believe that we, as Christians, are called to model a different way of living. We were never intended to be permanently busy. My encouragement to you it to rejoice in being un-busy when you can - don't allow the demon of guilt to rob you of the pleasure. Try to avoid the trap of packing your diary so full that you can never be un-busy. And when someone asks: "Are you busy at the moment?", hopefully you might be able to respond: "No, not really. Isn't it great!"

(And I invite you to ask me if I'm busy when you next see me. If I say that I am then I give you permission to challenge me on it!)

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