Monday, July 29, 2013

Time and again

What is it that virtually every one of us wishes to have more of?


We citizens of Western civilization, and likely Eastern civilization, find ourselves living in internet time – when information increases exponentially at warp speed, and our lives often seemed frenzied collections of non-stop activities.

Our mobile phones, our tablets, and our apps allow us to maintain schedules unthinkable even one generation ago.

And if we were asked what we would like to do with extra time, more than few of us would likely say “rest.”

In the concluding chapter of The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, Judith Shulevitz calls this “mobile time,” as opposed to what for thousands of years has been “mechanical time.” And, she asks, “Mobile time is the time we’re in charge of, and who would want to lose that?”

I read that statement, and I thought about raising my hand.

Mobile time – internet time – has erased the boundaries between work and the rest of our lives, to the point where work is becoming the rest of our lives. My cell phone was off on Saturday (the battery had died and I had to recharge the new one for 24 hours). When I turned it on, I had 24 new email messages from work, including one unexpected email with instructions for work that had to be ready Monday morning.

Two months ago, I would have spent part of Saturday or Sunday frantically getting the work done for Monday. But now I’m drawing boundaries. The work will have to wait until Monday, replacing work or meetings already scheduled. Or perhaps not happening at all.

Reading The Sabbath World has helped in this drawing of boundaries, but it’s only been a contributing factor. The most important thing has been my stubborn insistence that work is no longer invading every other part of my life. If the work is not important enough to resource properly, then it’s not important enough for me to blow my weekend doing it.

Will there be consequences? Likely not. Internet time forces everything at work to be classified as urgent, and everything to be considered a crisis. I know the work well enough to tell the difference between the urgent and the important.

Internet time also erases any notion of the Sabbath, of taking a day of rest whether we spend that day at church, napping, or getting away from the cell phone.

Why is this important? Why did God rest on the seventh day of creation? Shulevitz has an answer, and it’s a good one: “God stopped to show us what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was created in the first place. Or…why it wasn’t worth creating, why it isn’t up to snuff and should be created anew.”

We can’t live for long in a world of first drafts and “good enough to get by for now.”

We’re reading The Sabbath World over at The HighCalling. To see the discussion about this week’s chapter, please visitthe site.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Maureen said...

If only more people would do as you have done!

Laura said...

The boundaries HAVE become so fuzzy. And I've found that this influences my life satisfaction too. There for a while, even things I would likely have done for pleasure had to be done for work and this greatly diminished the pleasure I obtained from them. This was an eye-opener. I'm trying to take that day--as God did--to look back over the work done and say, "This is good.". I have by no means mastered this, but I'm trying. And I'm finding joy returning in bits and pieces.

Good thoughts, Glynn.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

This spoke right to my heart, Glynn. I've been seriously contemplating taking one day a week to ignore the internet. Wish I could turn off my phone, too, but with aging parents, that's not a smart thing to do.
Rest is important and we do need to rethink our priorities.
Great post, my friend!

Rick Dawson said...

As much blogging as I do - both the writing and the reading of other's work - you might think I live online.

Fact - I have a dumb phone, not a smart one. I tell anyone I give the number to that I do not text. That irritates some, and it may be something that I choose to change later, but I live where I'm "employed", so no need to fear a text from my 92 year old "boss".

Fact - I was a *very* early adopter of the internet and an advocate of the potential I saw for good. Only later did I really stop and think about the downsides - there are many - of life in the fast lane.

I've stopped writing posts on Sundays. I may use the time for more research or off-line writing; more likely, I'll use it as God intended - as rest.

Thanks for this - great stuff!

Anonymous said...

24 messages in 24 hours...that's absurd. i agree...line drawing time.

S. Etole said...

Cell service is sporadic where I live and guests often find their phones unusable here. It's always interesting to see them begin to relax once they recover from the shock of not being immediately available via phone.

a joyful noise said...

Late Sunday afternoon - I post my digest of our Pastor's Sermon of that day! Limiting our internet is probably a good idea. I must think about it. I sure do like my computer! :-)