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The calendar says June so I guess summer is upon us. It just doesn’t feel like summer in Iowa; the high temperature’s been in the 60’s all week. Despite the weather the rhythm of summer is starting to settle in. The kids are adjusting to their freedom, which means rec baseball games, playing in the yard, and fighting… sometimes all at the same time. I haven’t been to my office in over a week. Am I bragging? Maybe. Sometimes it seems we professors have a complex, like we have to prove something to those work much less rhythmic jobs. So we hold countless meetings and seminars to make sure the not so important seems to be a matter of life and death. Some even take a play out of the George Costanza play-book: leave the office lights on and make sure the car can be seen in the parking lot. Everybody’s busy, and everyone likes to tell everyone else just how busy they are. “Hi (fill in the blank). How are you?” “Busy!” Sigh…
A healthy rhythm of life, I believe, moves between periods of productive activity and rest. Unfortunately, our capitalist culture doesn’t seem to care much for a rhythmic life. Increasingly, time has been homogenized, flattened out, as we become more and more obsessed with efficiency. We feel pressure to get the most out of everything in the shortest amount of time… so we can get more out of everything in shorter amounts of time. Productivity, efficiency, streamlining, improvement…work, work, work, busy, busy, busy. It’s important to point out that rest is not necessarily the same thing as inactivity. It’s not that people don’t do things during rhythmic periods of rest, it’s that activity during rest seems more like play. Playing hours of catch and coaching a 3rd and 4th grade baseball team isn’t loafing, but it’s not hard work either. Reading and writing in my basement is, technically, an important part of my job description; it just doesn’t feel like work. I’m sure there are some who question the time I spend on my friends front porch drinking good beer and smoking a pipe – oh the inefficiency! Wonderfully beautiful inefficiency. Only don’t call it time wasted… far from it. The time I spend with family and friends is time that is full and robust. I have to remind myself sometimes, when I’m lying on my death bed, where will my mind wander? Will I wish I could be sitting in another meeting, or sitting in my office perfecting one more goal or objective? Or will I long for one more round of catch with my son or daughter; one more lazy afternoon on the front porch with good friends?
I’m thankful for the rhythm of work and rest found in the creation accounts; I’m glad our creator took a day to play. I think about the lyrics to the song by the Crash Test Dummies called “And God Shuffled His Feet”which opens with this verse:
After seven days he was quite tired, so God said:
“Let there be a day Just for picnics with wine and bread.”
He gathered up some people He had made
Created blankets, and laid back in the shade
So here’s to baseball, front porches, and whatever form of play summer brings. Here’s to the beautiful inefficiency of Sabbath.