The tension between ‘Being’ and ‘Action’ is fundamental. We know the importance of balance in our work and the need to take time to simply ‘be.’ But for many of us, like Martha in the Gospel, activity is what we do, essential to our nature. Recently the razor’s edge between activity and non-action has cut a bit more deeply, all because I completed the first draft of my third novel and sent it to my editor. When I did not feel the sense of accomplishment and an ‘atta girl’ that I know I should feel, I decided to force myself to take some down time before starting the next book. Time to relax, think and for what a friend calls ‘sacred leisure.’ But I’d much rather be working on the next story. Not writing is hard. Thinking is harder.
Close to five hundred years ago, Blaise Pascal wrote that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Over the years since I first heard this statement, as a young college student, I have quoted the philosopher, usually somewhat smugly. And so it was with interest when a recent email caused me to read about psychological experiments which concluded that many of us prefer electrical shocks to sitting in a room while doing nothing.
I understand. There are few things I dislike doing more than researching and organizing materials, documents for my income tax preparation. This year, our new accountant offers a small discount to those clients getting their act together sooner than later. It was with relief this week that I spent the three days of my alleged thinking time happily occupied at the computer with the busy work of last year’s writing expenses.
All of these events have created a wholly new way of understanding of why Christ admonishes Martha with his seemingly hurtful, ‘Mary has chosen the better way, it will not be taken from her.” Being born in likeness of men, Jesus understands the discomfort, unease, even the anxiety caused by stopping. Sitting still. Perhaps all of those whole nights spent alone up in the mountains were battles similar to our own. Begging for patience, for understanding, for wisdom, continuing to empty himself out, making room for his divinity. Surely from his days as a young child, he took note of the differences between his mother, Mary, from the others. Her silence, stillness, a quality which must have appeared to be a listening.