“Half-work, which is half-rest, is good neither for rest nor for work.”
-AG Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life
Living intentionally. Not exactly a new topic, it’s been frequently discussed in the blogosphere recently. Carrying connotations of simplicity and a beautifully cultivated social life, it appeals to our cluttered internal newsfeed. The problem is, even those of us who desire to live intentional lives often find ourselves slipping into habits of half-work/half-rest. Of course it is always dangerous to make general statements, but I would argue that there are small facets of the way we all live our lives which contributes to all of us falling into this half and half state. And though it may be comfortable, none of us actually desire to be there.
“Going through the motions” isn’t what most of us desire for our lives. We don’t like the idea of floating aimlessly, without any sense of direction. We don’t want to be at the mercy of our emotions, or manipulated by our surroundings or through disordered desires. We crave intentionality. In a world of multi-tasking, productivity, and constant communication combined with the idolization of comfort, this is hard. We easily fall into a half and half state, where we are not focused on anything, and therefore, rather than working and resting (or whatever double-state we are participating in) we are only meeting our goals halfway. Because living intentionally looks different for everyone, I have decided, as much as I would love to dig into intentionality and discipline (yes, they are related…a post for another day), to just ask a few questions.
1) Are you always reachable?
If you are always reachable, either by call, text, email, or social media, or some combination of the four, you are always interruptible. If you are in the habit of being frequently interrupted, you are in the habit of not being fully present. This isn’t just a matter of asking how often you text at the dinner table, but how often do you have your phone at the dinner table. Or when you are out with friends, how often are you letting your time with friends be interrupted by texts from your mom, your friends new pictures on Facebook, or anything else that isn’t a part of the people and the place in front of you? Did you know a cell phone doesn’t even have to be in use to be a distraction; it only has to be visible. Because as soon as it is visible, whatever you are currently a part of is now interruptible. This is a soapbox of mine, so I will (begrudgingly) leave it at that. But I will add a comment from Dr. Maria Wolter, professor of philosophy at Franciscan University’s Austrian campus, that to have your phone out in social contexts (at meals, bars, coffee dates with friends, bible study, etc.) is “downright un-Christian,” because you are intentionally distancing yourself, even if not physically, from the people around you. I firmly believe the people placed in our lives are one of the greatest contributors to making our lives an adventure, and God puts them near us for a reason. Don’t let the opportunity to encounter them pass by because you are putting yourself in a half and half state.
2) Do you have a routine?
Routines should never be oppressive; they shouldn’t prevent you from trying new things, meeting new people, or going new places. There should, however, be some routine in your life. A routine in which you consciously choose times and places for solitude, for quiet, for prayer, and for work, helps you to be free to take on new challenges and adventures. There is a difference between keeping a routine and falling into a habit. Keeping a routine is a daily choice to do what needs to get done, and doing what is necessary to make that happen. By preventing feelings of being overwhelmed, and increasing vigilance and self-awareness, routine makes it possible to see new opportunities. Routine also teaches us not to yield to temptation to comfort, making it easier to summon the courage to try something new in the face of discomfort. Of course this one requires some balance. Routine has the potential to run your life, and letting it do so is giving control to something that shouldn’t hold authority. Routine should create space for the Holy Spirit to work, not prevent him from doing so. A consciously cultivated routine will help prevent you from slipping into a half and half state.
3) Are you uncomfortable with silence?
“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.” –Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation.
An aversion to silence can be evaluated both as a cause and symptom of living in a half and half state. When we are uncomfortable with silence, and habitually fill it with various distractions, we choose to enter the half and half state for the sake of comfort. We play movies for background noise or watch TV while we work. When we fall into in the habit of never being fully present, we soon find that we feel we can’t focus without having a distraction nearby. We don’t know how to be still with our own thoughts and eventually they become distractions themselves. We become stuck in the half and half state, and become accustomed to it. When we then attempt to seek silence, we find it intense and uncomfortable, we find our emotions or thoughts within it fearsome, we never knew they could be so loud, and we don’t know how to handle them, so we revert again, to our half and half state.
Being fully present is living life to the fullest. There are many more questions to be asked, I hope this has been enough of a teaser on the topic to get you thinking. And I beg you my friends, do not settle for the half and half state.