We have drifted far from a lifestyle and culture that helps us to foster and practice contemplation. For man today, and most especially Western man, contemplation is a muscle that has atrophied. What is of value today is measured on one scale only and that scale is achievement. The problem with this philosophy is that we take our sense of worth from what we do rather than from who we are. If something is good only if it works then we are only good if we work and only as good as the work we do. AND if we are only valuable if we are achieving, producing and contributing no wonder we put away our handicapped, aged and sick. No wonder the unemployed, the retired and stay at home parents feel unfulfilled and useless. (Inspired from “The Shattered Lantern” by Ronald Rolheiser)
Heck, let’s go ahead and say what needs saying. And I warn you that this is going to sting. The protestant mega-church model seems to have adopted achievement as a sign of God’s blessing. I see it in the eyes of my protestant pastor friends when I mention that I pastor a church of about 100 total people. It almost like they want to say, “Hey, that’s OK!” Some even look like they feel bad for me.
A journalist once asked Thomas Merton what he considered to be the leading spiritual disease of our time. His answer surprised his interviewer. Of all the things he might suggested (lack of prayer, lack of community, poor morals, lack of concern for justice and the poor) he answered instead with one word: efficiency. Why? Because, according to Merton, “from the monastery to the Pentagon the plant has to run…and there is little time or energy left over after that for anything else.”
Our problem may not be badness, it might be busyness. This is a problem that can be resolved but everything is working against us including the time we live in and the theology and philosophy that we are told to believe. When I think of busy as a vice I think of Brooks from Stephen King’s “Shawshank Redemption.” He writes his prison friends soon after being paroled.
Dear fellas, I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.
Carl Jung was right when he said, “Hurry is not of the devil it is the devil.” Our souls need time for contemplation.