“It was a waste of time, but I will do it again.” Eden had just spent three days on a silent retreat. No technology. No needless talking. Early to bed, early to rise. Spiritual direction. Group sesions three times a day. And more.
“It was a waste of time, but I will do it again.” Eden is a typical 14 year old, bright, intelligent and very, very active. Always doing something. The biggest challenge for her was to stop doing. To stop being in a hurry. To let go of the expectation to achieve, get a result, to have something to show for her weekend out.
It took two days of reading her book and writing in her diary, feverishly, before she arrived at the place of ‘no thing doing’. Sort of. It wasn’t easy to put down her book or pen and do nothing. Writing a diary is good. So is reading. But if they are a distraction from the inner journey, from the the silence and solitude of stillness, then some time apart from them is appropriate. It was in this time Eden came to appreciate the value of wasting time.
It is not easy. She almost went a little stir crazy. The preconditioned desire to be active, the implanted should of a consumerist technological society, refused to go without a fight. She became agitated and a little stressed as she remained firm in her efforts to do no thing. It did become easier. And it was good.
“It was a waste of time, but I will do it again.” We live in a technological world, not so much in a mechanical sense, but in the reduction of all of life to one of endless outcomes, usefulness and instrumentality. We are in a hurry to do something useful, to achieve a result and to get the best out of everything and everyone. Life has been objectified and if it isn’t useful it is deemed to be useless.
We have reduced education to the busyness of learning skills to cope with a fast changing world and to ensure we get a good paying job so we can travel, buy houses and cars and be comfortable. There is little time for reflective learning, touching the inner journey or just sitting with ourselves. What a waste of time.
We have reduced spirituality to a private practice that helps us be calm, relaxed, successful and stress free. It has been seperated from the transcendent and reduced to another pragmatic tool for sale in a consumerist society. Forget about any sense of soulful community. What a waste of time. This is all about me.
Work is about the bottom line, for both self and the employer. How to pay the bills, maintain the life style and make more. Profits, shateholders and the minimisation of responsibility to state and its citizens through the avoidance of taxes, and more, appear to rule. People lose out to the God of money. Why put people first? What a waste of time.
We have reduced the human being to a biomechanical entity which can be adjusted, improved, reinvented, supercharged and reduced to a little more than sum of its mechanical parts. Brains can be changed, mindsets reset, intelligence expanded, where does it stop? When will we cease to be human and what does it mean to be human anyway? Does being human mean living with limitations and borders? What happens when we fiddle with humanness to such an extent that we become a new creature, something other than human? Is being a human enough? What a waste of time.
Eden has begun to see that wasting time is good, neccessary and appropriate. You discover yourself, or at least make a start on the inner journey. You begin to discover unity with others and creation. You begin to discover the transcendent and your proper place in the world. You discover your centre, without which you can not engage with, or resist, the technological world in which we live.
Busyness prevents us from wasting time. Our busyness is manufactured by a technological consumer society which needs us to consume both goods and time in pursuit of being more than human. Having more, being more, doing more in some way helps us to go beyond our limitations and borders. We seek to become more than we already are. Somehow we need to leave behind ourselves in search for more, more what, we are not sure, for we have not made the time to discover who we are.
And that’s the learning for Eden and the new contemplatives. We are human. We need no more. We need to become what we already are, not seek to become something else. Only through the inner journey of letting go of the shoulds found in our over hyped world and staying connected to our true self do we become fully human. It is a movement of the soul, of depth, and not of spirit which is a movement of flight. It is a slow, rythmical journey of sufering and joy, not of safety and happiness as promised by the television ads, personal well-being gurus and technological breakthroughs.
Less is more. And it is a waste of time. But I, too, will do it again. Now.