WHEN I WRITE THIS THING ON SUNDAYS, I usually have a few ideas to begin with. Then I see where they take me, hoping for a single point to eventually show itself. Today I feel as if my ideas are disparate. (Or perhaps desperate)?! So here goes, I’m going to try to connect these ideas — the way we teachers encourage our students to do in the classroom.
Why does our culture value togetherness over aloneness to such a degree? During this pandemic, there has been much discussion of people isolating themselves and suffering because of it. Of course it is not good to cut oneself off from the world. My DailyOm book warns against “disconnecting from the source.” But the world is not the source, God is (for me anyway). The world is simply where our faith plays out, or a site of service, or an opportunity to love. So right, definitely don’t cut yourself off. BUT, being alone is not necessarily bad for one’s mental health.
17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Truth. Many of us are so scared of our thoughts. I have written about this before. And even if we do somehow get caught alone and in public, we busy ourselves looking at our cellphones. Because, God forbid someone thinks we are not engaged in the world.
One of the million reasons I love church is because (mostly) people sit and think and feel and consider — and pray and worship, too. It seems to me that if more of us took the time to sit and think, then maybe there would even be more praise and worship. [Warning, messy transition ahead]. Anyway, I’m tired of hearing things like how social drinking is fine, for example, but drinking alone is a red flag for disaster. Really? I sure have seen a lot of folks drinking alcohol with other people who look like they could really use some help. And I have a sense there are numerous people who have a glass of wine or two all by themselves at night, and then go on to lead productive lives. See, we are told it’s romantic to curl up with someone on the couch and have a drink, watch a movie perhaps, but you’re just plain depressed if you do that same thing all alone. I beg to differ; I’ve curled up with a number of folk who have definitely tested my mental health capacity. Anyway, I could go on, like about being the only single person at a party and receiving looks of pity and confusion, or filling out a form that enquires as to whether one is single, married, divorced, or widowed. (Why does it matter what kind of single I am)?
Okay, here’s another question: why are we so obsessed with saving time? What are we saving it for? To find a solution to homelessness? great; to convince all humans to get vaccinated against the COVID virus? cool. But thing is, most of us are saving time so we can get back onto that aforementioned couch (I did it, I made a connection!) and simply indulge in a little food and drink and TV. I saw a meme recently explaining that those of us who had Pez dispensers back in the day had wasted so much time filling them up one by one with those fruity candies; turns out there is a trick to auto-loading them. It’s CANDY! What is the hurry? What part of the candy experience is supposed to be efficient, I ask you!? If I had a Pez dispenser right now, I would fill it with those little orange-flavored tablets, one by one, just like I used to.
Brian Regan has a hilarious comedy routine about Pop-Tarts and time. He reads the directions on the box and learns that microwaving them is even faster than putting them in the toaster. He contends that if someone is so busy that they don’t have time to toast a Pop-Tart then it might be wise to “loosen up your schedule.” (Please watch if you don’t know his routines, he is way funny)! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6GHPIwkXl0
And speaking of church again (connection #2!), some folks think service is too long — especially Baptist service. I am so used to a hearty two-hour Sunday service that when I visit another church and we are out and in our cars within sixty minutes, well I feel like I didn’t even go to church. I mean, after all, it takes some time to settle in, get right, sing some songs. And what are folks rushing home to do anyway? Their second job? Then I get it. Cooking for the week because they are unable to prepare meals consistently Monday through Friday? Makes sense. But a lot of us are in a hurry to hear that benediction just so we can go out to the diner for eggs and potatoes, or head home, take off our heels and get back on that proverbial couch again. So chill and “know that [He] is God,” y’all!
I could go on about the way our society treats time like a transactional commodity, how Amazon endlessly exploits its workers, for example, by seeking more and more “efficient” ways to get those boxes of stuff most of us don’t really need into our hands ASAP. What, you never saw the film, Sorry to Bother You? Well here’s a preview – hold onto your “horses.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XthLQZWIshQ
Sacrificial Love. That was the first of three points that Pastor Smith used in his sermon today, “The Disciple’s Checklist.” This first point really got to me as I have been thinking a lot this week about people my age and the way in which they hold onto things. These things might be material, or they might be identities, perhaps “principles”… It seems pretty obvious to me that those of us in a place to do so are responsible for making sacrifices for others, for the greater good. Imagine if everyone thought that and then went and got vaccinated (connection) simply to protect someone they don’t even know. Yeah that. The idea, Pastor said, is to ask, “what’s best for others?” Now, a lot of you reading this probably already do that. And we could all do it even more. But some folks just can’t get next to that concept. There’s a song that’s been playing in my head this week after two people I know did/didn’t do something that seemed to me an obvious opportunity for generosity. The song is “Mr. Wendal” by Arrested Development. Check the song out, its music and lyrics are so mighty. It goes in part:
Here, have a dollarhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfxvsHpTZWk
In fact, no brotherman here, have two
Two dollars means a snack for me
But it means a big deal to you
I mean, what’s left to be said? Pastor referenced “the other checklist” that sometimes interferes with the disciple’s checklist — that worldly one. (Oooh a connection again)! You know the list. One: have a lot of stuff; Two: make sure people know you have a lot of stuff; Three: hold on tight to your stuff because people are trying to take your stuff. That list.
Anyway, my brain is in overdrive because I spend a lot of time alone. And I am not in any hurry to change my life, to know what’s next, or even to cook my food. I have been given time today and I will do my best to be present in it. And I will continue to practice some sacrificial love in my comings and goings, so that one day it might just be that it becomes my lifestyle and not just a goal. So thanks for following along with me on these connections today. Here’s to making connections.