I studied philosophy in college. In one of the early, more overview type classes, I ran across this quote by Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I remember the quote shocked me a bit. For one, I had a romantic idealization of the past that involved a lot of sitting quietly to think and mine the depths of thought and reality with one’s mind. How else could all those philosophers and authors have the time to write so much and with such force as to change the course of history so many times? Yet here was one of those philosophers from the mid-17th century diagnosing the repercussions of our rebellion against Sabbath.
I am just as guilty as the next for having multiple screens and stimulus going at a time. I weathered the hurricane that was my final semester of college, on top of testing out of a semester on the side in order to graduate on time, by having multiple screens and books and music going for two months solid. I’m not saying it was my best work that term, but I managed to work it out enough to pass.
I’ve often wondered if I return to the over stimulus of multiple screens etc. because I’m afraid to realize and admit how tired I am. Or if it is indeed the reason Pascal pointed out so long ago, a fear of being quiet. I’m inclined to say it is a mixture of both.
For some reason it is shameful to be tired in America. It’s all get up and go, do it all, and hustle. Whether you’re an executive in a large company, an entertainer, in ministry, or staying home to raise the kids. The drive to be more and do more and never show the cracks from the cost of it has permeated into everything.
When I stopped to think about it, computers used to be people. It was a job title for someone who did the math before we had machines to do the math. Which meant human error used to be planned for and budgeted in for each quarter.
Machine-computers were created to be like the people-computers and do the math. The machines could do it perfectly every time, which was meant to make life easier for people. Instead it has slowly created the expectation for people to be like computers. To work without error, to never become tired, to hold all the knowledge in our heads and pull it out at a moment’s notice, to do everything faster and better than before.
The problem is people are not computers. Error happens, and since it isn’t budgeted in anymore, every error becomes a source of shame and failure. Fatigue inevitably happens, and since it too is no longer budgeted for, it builds up to breakdown. Which causes more shame and feelings of failure.
I used to get mad at God for going slow in everything I prayed about. I railed against His insistence on rest. Didn’t He know the pressure I was under? Didn’t He know time was a-wasting?
Now I realize that God does know, more than I do. He knows I am human, and He treats me like a human. He regularly reminds me that I am a human and not a computer. So I am trying to learn His pace and apply it to my life because in God’s slowness He is teaching me the proper pace for people, and it is a good deal slower than the frenetic pace of cultural expectations.
God is still budgeting for my humanity in His relationship with me. Another name for that allowance is Sabbath. Every time I recognize the Sabbath I recognize that I am a person, not a computer, or God, just a person. That is what God meant me to be and that is what I need to embrace in order to escape the pressure that is killing me bit by bit. I need to stop rebelling against the grace God gives me through Sabbath and accept it.
I’m not saying the shame culture silently throws at me won’t burn when I stop to have Sabbath. But the burn doesn’t last and Jesus is my everlasting salve. So I am going to practice being a person and not a computer. I am going to allow error and tiredness when they come, and I am going to make space for rest in Jesus.
1 thought on “Quiet”
This was so insightful for me. I to am constantly having screen time and rushing from meeting to meeting, hopeful that thing fall into place. Slowing down and making time to listen to God is what I need in my life. I’m going to try to do better. Thanks for this wake up!