Tag Archives: Time

Play Is Serious Business!

 

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Play, you know, the thing we do when everything else is achieved! This painting (used by Dr. Stuart Brown in his TEDx Talk featured in my post Galahs Partake ) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1501, is entitled “Children’s Games” but if you look closely, not all of the characters are children, in fact there are many adults also at play. Brown asks what has happened to our society that such scenes are no longer part of our life style.

Brown believes that the root of losing play in our society is guilt. We have been well trained in our society to respect hard work at the cost of all else.

In the early 20th century the sociologist and philosopher Max Weber published his work “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit Of Capitalism.” This work explores the link between work, religious belief and capitalism. Weber’s work was well received, and was commonly called “The Protestant Work Ethic.” Weber lays the responsibility for the drivenness towards capital and work at the door of the Calvinists who held that play was trivial, even ungodly (this from the same funsters who banned musical instruments in churches in the sixteenth century, and influenced the practice of locking up public playgrounds on Sundays). Sadly, this work ethic caught on, and capitalism blossomed in a particular way, a symbiotic relationship, that in my view is destructive on every level.

The result has been an ever demanding economy in which we consume as we are being consumed, body mind and soul, so long as we remain ignorant of the dilemma.

In a more mindful way we need to get in touch with our inner child, to be free to be creative in our own way and not to be drawn into perfectionist behaviours of fun. To be free to leave some things incomplete (which is an acknowlegement that one day we will leave everything complete, and others will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves). In one sense play and letting go has something to give us by way of living as we are aging and preparing for death, the ultimate letting go.

In the short term, play enables us, releases us, heps us reframe and is just plain healthy. We learn more about ourselves and others in play.

That old saying is true: “All work and no play makes Jack/Jill a dull person.” The painting by Brueghel is a reminder that adults used to have fun in simple ways, and perhaps, life was less dull.

In a confronting way, the Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister once recalled that when she was grumbling about cleaning floors while she could have been studying for her degree, the superior commented “You have all the time there is.” We all have time. Play must be a priority, it must be intentional. Go play 🙂

For an MP3 of Krista Tippett, at On Being,  interviewing Stuart Brown for “Play, Spirit, and Character” (2007) go to Dr. Stuart Brown

Paul,

pvcann.com

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The Four Quartets

Quartet

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I love music of many kinds, so quartet brings to mind the Norwegian musicians – Vertavo String Quartet, or from a jazz perspective, the John Coltrane Quartet. However, What is forever etched on my mind are four poems,  the ‘Four Quartets’ by T.S. Eliot.

The ‘Four Quartets’ are reflective meditations on humanity’s relationship with time. Eliot engages spiritual themes, and philosophy, and includes such influences as John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich (mystics), presocratic thinkers (Greek philosophy), and the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu).  The poems were written between 1936 and 1945 and originally published separately, until 1948 when Faber published them in one volume. The period in which he wote these poems is perhaps indicative of the content. The threat of war, followed by the long war and the blitz, which he endured, must have impacted his sense of mortality and time.

The Quartets are: ‘Burn Norton’, ‘East Coker’, ‘The Dry Salvages’, and ‘Little Gidding.’

My favourite of the four is Little Gidding, simply because it contains a profound observation of the human condition that is neither perfunctory, nor damning, but rather, somehow, encouraging. That observation of Eliot’s comes in part five of ‘Little Gidding.’

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

As I’ve quoted before, Proust puts it well when he says: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Eliot is not at odds with Proust in this. He too is suggesting that we humans are curious, we are seekers of truth, of belief, fact, geography, place and space, and more. But, in spite of great travels and in spite of much learning, eventually we return to our roots, our beginning points, and see them afresh.

For me that means seeing the horizons of body, mind and soul with new inner eyes, being able to see with the eyes of wholeness, forgiveness, love, kindness, compassion, and self-giving. Eliot also speaks of how experience is transformative (if we allow it to be so). He also speaks to how we mature in those experiences along life’s journey, and how time affects us, that aging and experience might afford us opportunity to see ourselves afresh. We engage with our youthfulness and “kick the traces” as we used to say, rebelling; we turn to masks, we invent personae for the public I, denial is the trope of our lives. But in the end, at our very core, there is only ever, our true self, if we but look carefully. And if we attend to our true self, accept our self, loev our self, we see ourselves whole as if for the first time.

In a stark reminder, he’s also suggesting that, as with the story of Adam and Eve, so with all of us, we never leave the awkwardness of self-awareness, separation, and a sense even an anxiety, that we could do better we could be someone. All of us strive to overcome those things, but find that we were/are, perhaps, a little too hard on ourselves and that we just need to see ourselves as good. The journey we engage is one to be whole and perfect, but yet, the end of our searching leads us back to where we began, that we were indeed whole in the first place, and that nothing is ever perfect.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Wheel

via Daily Prompt: Wheel

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These are cogs or spockets, which are wheels with teeth or prongs. These cogs drive a clock, a time piece on display in the Swan Bell Tower.

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It was a controversial project because of its cost and seemingly unimportant connection with W.A. The cost was $5.5 million, and now it seems so trivial. The then Court government commissioned the tower following a donation of twelve historic bells from St. Martin-in-the-Fileds church in London, six other bells from a London foundry, and the rest made from donated ore from W.A. mining companies.  We finally got there some time back and enjoyed the bells and the display. It is one of the only West Australian millenium projects that came in one time, on budget, and still remains open, and makes a contribution to the community through education. I really learned a lot that day and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Nothing like the wheels of time to stir the heart and mind.

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After Virtue – a new Benedict? (Pt.1)

Alasdair Macintyre published ‘After Virtue’ (AV) in 1981. Many of us read it around then, but it has come into public view again through Rod Dreher’s ‘The Benedict Option’ in which Dreher takes a comment from the very end of AV where MacIntyre says “We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.” (Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue p. 163)

The title is a clue for those who know the work of Aristotle, that AV is an attempt to refine an Aristotelian world view, a moral philosophy, and MacIntyre refers to Aristotle throughout, and in particular the ‘Nichomachian Ethics.’ AV is also a work that seeks to refute Nietzsche’s claim that “… morality is only a mask for the will to power …” (Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue p. 22). MacIntyre’s view is that modern moral and political philosophy falls short and we must therefore renew by studying and enacting virtue.

That last line which refers to Godot, is a swipe at Beckett, as in Beckett’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’, where Godot never shows up, and which is thought to be a criticism of those who wait for an external force to save them, thus a swipe by Beckett at certain forms of Christianity. MacIntyre suggests that we do need an external saviour in the form of a new St. Benedict, someone needs to show up.

When MacIntyre refers to St. Benedict he offers no elucidation save that he is waiting for another very different Benedict. There is no clue as to what this other Benedict will be like, he is not prescriptive, which means he is not seeking to be prophetic, but rather, he is yearning for a saviour. Dreher (interview with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove at Red Letter Christians 2015 https://www.redletterchristians.org) claims that MacIntyre is being prophetic, but it is clear that MacIntyre’s language and construction is nothing of the sort, it is simply a hope, a desire, a yearning.

Why is he waiting for another Benedict? According to MacIntyre, while not subscribing to pessimism (because we survived the dark ages), we are on the cusp of a new dark age and we need someone to shine a light. He sees a decline and grieves the loss of moral community, salvation is in a new type of St, Benedict.

Enter Rod Dreher and the ‘Benedict Option.’

 

Paul

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Busy in Solitude

Back in 2010 I was sitting in a doctors surgery, and actually found an article that interested me, ‘Time bandits stifle innovation’ by D’Angelo Fisher (BRW, July 15, 2010). Fisher’s title sets the theme, that employees are so lacking in discretionary time to think, ponder or work through issues creatively, that there is no possibility of innovation let alone productivity (although there is an argument to explore here whereby we can say that some people work well under pressure).Fisher’s solution, of course, is to suggest that companies who desire to be innovative, especially in the wake of the GFC, would be to counter busyness by providing discretionary time for their staff.

There is a resonance for me as our bishop has been particularly encouraging in trying to get all his clergy to cultivate the traditional practice of being unproductive in order to be more productive in the things that matter. We are being encouraged to take time to reflect and contemplate. It is from such a place that we can speak of God, can hear the depth of our own workings, and be able to listen in to the stories of others. I don’t disagree with that at all, I embrace it wholly.

However there is a tension for me. It is the sense that I can hardly sit by while others are rushing about. Yet part of that problem is not just my reaction to how I will be viewed, it is also that there is a communication problem for anyone wanting solitude. It revolves around framing language within a context and trying to explain (as opposed to justify) it to those outside that context. Easier said than done. The repetitive question I often hear after a retreat is “so how was your holiday?”

Although neither Fisher or my Bishop use the term solitude, that’s how I relate to time for reflection, meditation, prayer, contemplation, sacred reading or Lectio. Solitude is time to draw aside, to regroup, to sense direction.

The danger is, perhaps, to compare and contrast, even demonise what we call busyness in order to provoke the thought that solitude is necessary.

My own view is, perhaps ironically, that busyness and solitude need each other in order for either to function and bring balance. Hedley Galt (corporate facilitator and coach) expresses this in the metaphor of dance; “A life that’s full and yet balanced is like a dance: you need to be able to step forward and embrace experiences, and also to step back to regroup or change direction.”

For many people solitude is daunting. Of course there are those who suffer a phobia such as monophobia (the fear of being alone) or isolophobia (the fear of being isolated) which (without treatment) precludes the sufferer from enjoying even the thought of solitude. Yet for most people there is no phobia, but rather the need to learn the dance steps for a balanced life.

The steps towards putting things on hold daunt many. A friend in management once confided that it exhausted him just to think about reorganising his life even just for a few days off so that it seemed less complicated to stay at work! Others are concerned for their reputation (a concern founded in the past and which is lived in the present) for some that reputation is wholly vested in busyness. Others might well be driven, feeding off the energy that comes from work, new ideas, and a plethora of directions and projects (a little like anxiety in that drivenness is a concern for the future). Does anyone live in the present?

We are distracted by the past (the self-perpetuating culture of retro-capitalism intrudes here) and drawn by the future. It is this busyness that I believe affects our ability to simply be, and to live in the present moment. Physical busyness alone may be demanding, but not (in the normal scheme of things) debilitating. In the metaphor of dance, it might mean for some engaged in purely emotional and mental tasks that a physical task may be the change necessary, the step to embrace. For those in purely physical work it may be to withdraw and contemplate, a step back. But either can be experienced in solitude.

For me the most meaningful solitude is when I am hiking in the bush. It is as if the motion of walking is the mantra and the scenery an organic sign of God and God’s creative work a feast for the eyes and yet more than a sign because I am in the midst of it. While I am walking I can pray and reflect, and in setting camp for the night I can undertake an Examen. But it is the physical act of hiking that facilitates the solitude I thrive in. I still enjoy mediation, and silent retreat, quiet days and the like, but I am at home walking and sitting in the bush.

The point I am making is that while some might question hiking in the bush as a form of solitude because, for some reason, there is little stillness, I believe that solitude, and thereby contemplation, can be active. However, being active doesn’t mean that you are busy! Both yoga and meditation involve action (mantra for one, movement for the other).The busyness that I think we really battle is not the ordinary tasks of life and domesticity, or work, it is the busyness of the ego and its ally the mind.

So unproductive time, discretionary time, is certainly important for contemplation which can lead to creativity and spiritual flow, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be still or completely restricted in activity to do that. Indeed, the opposite is true for me on many occasions.

Paul

Notes: Leo D’Angelo Fisher ‘Time Bandits Stifle Innovation’ BRW July 15, 2010; Hedley Galt ‘Solitude’ Nature & Health, June -July 2007

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