by Susan Russell
Franciscan priest and long time friend of All Saints, Richard Rohr is founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, a prolific author and a powerful force for God’s love, justice and compassion. This excerpt from his 2008 book “Preparing for Christmas: Daily Reflections for Advent” is one I’ve highlighted, bookmarked and returned to again and again.
“Less Is More” by Richard Rohr
I have never been busier in my life than I have been recently. What right do I have to talk about contemplation when I have been living on overdrive? It seems that we tend to think that more is better. I am told that busyness is actually a status symbol for us! It is strange that when people have so much, they are so anxious about not having enough — to do, to see, to own, to fix, to control, to change.
Several years ago when I was in Nicaragua, I asked a man if he had time, and he said, ‘I have the rest of my life,’ and smiled. Who of us would possibly say that? That is what we don’t have. What we don’t have is the rest of our lives because we do not even have the now of our lives. The decisions we have made in our past have decided our tomorrows; the credit cards and mortgages, the planned obsolescence of almost everything we own, is keeping us all running. And we are not sure why. We don’t have the rest of our lives. They are all determined. They are all assured, insured and worried about ahead of time.
We have grown up with all sorts of time-saving devices, and undoubtedly some of us will receive even more of them at Christmas, perhaps finding under our Christmas trees a waffle maker to save time at breakfast or a bun warmer to make dinner preparation faster. Once we own these devices, then we build bigger kitchens that require more cleaning and more energy to store more of our time-saving devices. All these things will save us time — not!
Time is exactly what we do not have. What decreases in a culture of affluence is precisely and strangely time — along with wisdom and friendship. These are the very things that the human heart was created for, that the human heart feeds on and lives for. No wonder we are producing so many depressed, unhealthy and even violent people, while also leaving a huge carbon footprint on this poor planet.
Jesus said it to us quite clearly: “Why are you so anxious? Why do you run after things like the pagans do? What shall I eat? What shall I wear? You are not to worry about tomorrow. Each day will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:31, 34). But for some reason, mostly what we do is reprocess the past and worry about tomorrow. This must tell us that we have not understood the spiritual message of Jesus very well. Now the very earth is telling us so.