A friend from high school days offered a twelve day journaling experience beginning at the equinox, the first day of Autumn, my favorite season. She sends out a prompt (a series of prompts, really) each morning and invites us to write as we’re led. It has been an invigorating and challenging journey. I haven’t been sharing what I write to date but I do want to share what I wrote for today. Below is the prompt, followed by my response.
PROMPT: Something I’ve heard repeatedly over the past few weeks are these words, “I’m just so exhausted.” I’ve heard it in reference to having to wear a mask. I’ve heard it in terms of having to wait out the coronavirus. I’ve heard it in regards to politics and the pace of the news cycle. If you too are feeling exhausted in certain areas of your life, try to identify the things that are depleting you of your energy.
After listing the things that are zapping your energy, try to think of antidotes for each of them. It’s okay if the antidotes are not realistic. Let yourself dream a bit.
Think about the flow of energy in your life. How does your energy fluctuate over the course of a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime? What is your energy level at this point in your life? What’s your energy level now during this equinox season?
Imagine for a moment life without having to live by society’s clocks or calendars. Describe a life in which you could create your own rhythms and live according to the seasons. Think of it as creating your own almanac.
RESPONSE: I have sensed that feeling of exhaustion in myself and in others. For me, part of it is recovery from summer. I just don’t function well in extreme heat so summers are always rough. That’s a part of my life every year, a regular rhythm of depletion and replenishment. Fall restores my strength, my energy. However, this time it goes far beyond simply season change. I think the exhaustion I’m feeling and what I see in many others is the sapping of our minds and our souls at living in dueling universes. Reality is exhausting right now. We’re in a pandemic and death is a much more stark reality than it normally is. Add to that the 24-7 news cycle with its daily, and seemingly hourly, updated “body count” and that feeling of tiring dread never really goes away. The pandemic is accompanied by an economic collapse that is bizarre for many of us. Millions of people out of work and yet real estate prices and movement are soaring, the stock market continues to trend upward which makes clear to us that we live in a moment in history when “the economy” is not real. Money is imaginary and the government can just create more of it out of thin air. As a country, either we put a man in or he stole his way into the highest elected office in our system who is the perfect illustration of this tenuous situation. He proclaims his wealth but won’t release his tax returns. Why is that? As we’re discovering, part of it is that he has broken innumerable financial laws by not paying taxes. My best guess is however, he knows if his returns are released we’ll all see that the emperor has no clothes. His wealth is an illusion as there is nothing to shore it up or sustain it other than an image of being wealthy. I won’t focus on it today but just mention that all of the above doesn’t even take into account the burgeoning racial crisis in which we find ourselves.
So this is reality. Meanwhile we have an entire political party creating an alternate universe with straight faces, one that is so preposterous that a child could see through it (the emperor has no clothes!) but they pump out falsehood and lawlessness with no sense of conscience or remorse. This is the party of family values, of Evangelicalism…and their “christian” base laps it up and defends it vigorously and violently. Up is down, down is up. Bill Clinton’s immorality was reason enough to remove him from office; Trump’s is a sign of strong leadership. (Author’s note: For any who think I’m somehow beholden to the other party, that would be incorrect. I’ve chosen to withdraw loyalty to any party as a means of seeking to live in the one Kingdom that actually lasts. Feel free to ask me about it.) Those of us who try to live with a grip on truth and reality are left emotionally and mentally spent which also decreases our energy levels, even physically. Unlike election years past, we live with a dread that this horror is not going to end any time soon, no matter the real outcome of said election. Knowing all of this, is it any wonder we’re exhausted? If we had a rhythm, it has been completely disrupted.
I wrote all of that, I think, to address this idea of rhythm. It has been an ongoing inner – and sometimes more public – conversation for me over the past several years. How much has the measuring of time in hours, minutes, and seconds damaged us? Long since past is the quaint notion of day/night, summer/winter, planting/harvesting, of living according to Earth’s natural rhythm. We are slaves to the clock and frantically try to accomplish everything possible according to the hour or even the minute. Keeping time in such detail deludes us into believing that all things are of equal importance and to fail to accomplish every task in a specific number of minutes or hours is total and complete failure. Manic submission to the clock has made production our god. If we’re not “productive,” we have no real value. It’s funny, no matter how many studies clearly demonstrate that true productivity is not tied to hours and minutes, and in fact being focused on hard and fast schedules actually decreases productivity, we refuse to budge. We MUST live by the clock.
As my readings include a portion of the Gospels each day, the example of Jesus is always in my mind. I think of the various places in his story that he said something to the effect of, “It’s time.” This never indicated, “It’s 1:00 so we must get moving to accomplish this task.” It was always more, “The moment is ripe so now we act.” Jesus didn’t live as if there were only so many hours in a day and so many minutes in an hour. He lived by a rhythm, a lack of hurry that allowed him to sense when the time was right. As a culture, we refuse to allow ourselves to live with any sense of natural rhythm. And our souls slowly die.
Henry Ford was an American icon. Why? He perfected slavery to the clock. We don’t say it like that but it is in reality what he accomplished. My question is, did he in any legitimate way make the world better? Steady paychecks? For many, yes. But is the steadiness of the wage worth the destruction of our bodies, minds, and souls of a bland devotion to hours, minutes, and productivity? And when we consider the way this bondage to “time” and “achievement” have permeated our culture so that it even holds sway in areas that were never intended to be timed and measured in these ways, education and faith. Again, is it any wonder we are dying as a people, inside and out, when we hold fast to this flawed perspective on life?
Part of my frustration is not having an answer, an antidote to this brokenness. In a culture such as ours, it’s difficult to live in rhythm because everything is organized around a clock: doctor’s appointments, church services, coffee dates, working out, meals, school (is it any wonder students struggle with asynchronous online education?), and so on and so on. My heart keeps longing to find some place in the Canadian Rockies where I can remove myself from the tyranny but I know the reality: I will take myself with me to that place and the tyranny will accompany me. It is ingrained. God help me find a way to move out from under its rule.