What do swing sets, see-saws and rocking chairs all have in common? They require us to exert effort yet limit how far we can actually go. We may be temporarily higher, or appear to be moving forward, but we come right back into the same place. Sometimes in life, we find ourselves doing the exact same thing. Metaphorically speaking, within our comfort zones are all of the items designed to create the perception of moving forward, accomplishment and success, while the reality is we have not really grown in any capacity: spiritually, emotionally, physically or intellectually.
There is truth in the theory that a man’s mind, once stretched, can never return to it’s original dimension. I take this to heart, and believe that in this modern day world we rely more on technology and digital assistance, than our own brain capacity. Relationships have migrated along the same path, with little verbal or handwritten communication (paper and pen), to texts, emails and instant messaging. This appears to be an easy way to shorten a discussion, skirt around the awkward silence of a particular issue, or even enable a soft fade away of a friendship or relationship. However, we no longer need to look into someone’s eyes, read their body language or hear a conveyed tone of voice, all of which contribute to the atrophy of our ‘empathetic muscle’.
Being ‘busy’ has replaced fruitfulness, masquerading around as important as we make our way from task to task. It creates stress, chaos and dissatisfaction. We are easily found via phones, computers and tablets by bosses, colleagues, social groups and organizations that we belong to. We are never truly quiet. We volunteer, feel guilty, and over commit ourselves. Children are involved in multiple sports teams or activities at the same time, causing parents to split and conquer towns and fields under the lights, skidding into the kitchen just before bedtime. This is all done in name of moving forward, participating in life and striving. I’m not suggesting its a bad thing, but is it a fruitful thing? Could one or two activities suffice making room for a night per week to eat and hang out as a family? Maybe committing to a few less projects at work, church or other organizations may allow us more rest, and the ability to engage in a more fully present way with others, or to simply relax.
If you could zoom out and take stock of your own life for a couple of weeks, how much of what you do is more like being on the swing, than running towards a defined goal or purpose? There is value in our work, healthy activities, and volunteering of our time. Yet the questions remain, how much have you grown as a result? How have your key relationships developed as a result? If it was your very last day to spend on the stage of your life, would you change the way you play your role? I learned the hard way; burned out, stressed out and wishing someone would have gently stopped me in the midst of the madness and told me to slow down, even just a little bit.
Focus on the details that can leave behind a truly lasting legacy. Pass on the riches of love, time spent thinking and sharing, mentorship, self-development, snow angels, sand castles, afternoon naps, and conquering the inner demons and mental blocks that hold us captive to the very productivity and exertion that get us nowhere but exhausted.
To quote Walt Whitman, (as spoken by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society): “That you are here – that life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and YOU may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
Think about it.