Monday, December 27, 2004

Idle speculations

In between the more ponderous ponderings, an idle thought.

Prompted by a commentary on the radio, just now. A comparison was drawn between America in 1850, and America today. In the 1850's, America was in the grip of the 3rd "Great Awakening." Wall Street was silent at noon on weekdays, as everyone was in a prayer luncheon. Really praying, or keeping up with the Joneses is of little import to the thesis, which is that people actually took time, the last time religion was held to hold sway over public life, for something other than work. No such hiatus in the day today, of course. And that, the commentator averred, is damaging to democracy.

People, like gardens, need to lie fallow, he said (and the wisdom of work and rest centered on the life agricultural, v. the life industrial (the machine never rests unless it breaks, or runs out of fuel), is a topic to be explored further in the future). We don't allow ourselves to "lie fallow" now, which means we pay less and less attention to our democracy, among other things. Interestingly, he cast this in economic terms: he said this was costing us more than it was worth, that the cost quite literally outweighed the benefits.

Certainly it does spiritually: all work and no play makes Jack a psychopathic killer; at least according to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. But what about people as political creatures? Can we consider fairness, issues of justice, issues of community, if we don't have time for them?

I must confess, much of my contemplation and the products of those contemplations, comes from long periods of unemployment or under-employment, when I was able to spend my time in other pursuits, or just chasing a thought down to its final end. One of the appeals to ministry was, and is, for me, the opportunity to think: to sit idle, and let the mind wander at play in the fields of the Lord. And to try to find ways to expand that sense of the Lord's fields to more than matters of mind. But what ways would we implement this vision? It's one thing to recognize the problem. It's quite another, to do something about it.

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