Big Damn Hurry

James Whitmore 1921-2009 as Brooks Hatlen

James Whitmore 1921-2009 as Brooks Hatlen

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.



Filed under Regarding the Present Moment

10 responses to “Big Damn Hurry

  1. I think churches that get over 300 members are too big and should be split off into smaller versions. The large mega church cannot possibly be intimate enough to meet the needs of all. I imagine that the pastor of such a church would have parishioners that he or she has never met. Not good in my book.

  2. s-p

    Very well said. Now hurry up and write something else good. 🙂

  3. Joan

    I needed to read this, thanks!

  4. Chris

    Father James –
    Father Bless,

    I have a question with regards to the Merton quote. He mentions that efficiency is the “leading spiritual disease of our time.”

    However, if something is efficient, doesn’t that work require less energy and allow for more time for contemplation, IF we so choose?

  5. So timely, so true. My son came to visit with me a few days ago. He has two businesses & not a lot of time so I was thrilled. He spent the whole time either explaining his new iphone to me or playing with it as I attempted to talk to him.

    May the good Lord have mercy on our souls.


  6. Lenore

    I think most of my problems with anger come from feeling rushed and feeling that someone else is impeding my headlong race. I wonder how many of my other temptation/weaknesses are caused by this.

  7. Thanks for writing this, Fr James. I’ve been wrestling with this very subject (not so much the contemplation part — I have no problem with that, but the identity being drawn from what you do). The evangelical churches I have belonged to in the past contributed all too often to the disease of being=doing and spent far too little time fostering discussions that would draw us into further contemplation, awareness and cooperation of the process of theosis, and simplifying our lives.

    Life has become far too complicated and I wrestle extensively with the idea of my identity being drawn from what I do — and if I feel worthless in my vocation, like I’m wasting time and feeling miserable about my job, then it doesn’t take much effort to connect that worthlessness to my sense of self.

    The question that doesn’t seem to be asked much these days, is how (and where) can I draw my sense of worth and wholeness while in a setting that does little to offer such things. In other words, how can I find life, fulfillment, and peace in the midst of a crappy job.

    I appreciate you sharing this.

  8. Jennifer Trusty

    In 1996, we had a foreign exchange student from Germany living with us, (where the standard vacation time is 6 weeks). When she learned that the norm in the U.S. is only 2 weeks, she gasped, “But when do you have time for contemplation and thinking?”

    When I replied that we don’t, she continued, “That’s not really living.”

    I’ve been sad for our society ever since.

  9. Fr. James Coles

    Thank you all for the comments. They are all thought provoking.. believe me, I needed to read this post and your comments as much as I needed to write it.

  10. Pingback: Hurry Is The Devil « Joe Allison's Blog

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