This is a sermon I gave this weekend for my beloved and busy congregation in northern Virginia. By the way, if you like the idea of a meditation bell on your computer, here’s another posting with some links.
Peace to you,
From “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” by Tim Kreider
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it…
The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.
 Tim Kreider, “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” New York Times June 30, 2012.
…Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
Martha, Martha, busy with many tasks.
Worried and distracted by many things.
Imagine Martha today,
waking up to the beep beep beep of her alarm clock.
Shaking off the fogginess of sleep,
she’s already thinking of what she has to do today.
Her iPhone is charging on the night table.
She gives her work email a quick check as she brushes her teeth,
just to see what’s going to be facing her today when she gets in.
Twenty more emails since she checked last night before bed.
An average morning.
Martha glances at her calendar and to-do list—
oh, that’s right, that report is due today—
gotta try to get that done before lunch.
But, wait, she’s toggling back to email and there’s a message
from someone asking for a meeting at 11 a.m. today
if at all possible—um, OK, that’ll have to work.
Maybe she can write the report in that half-an-hour window
between appointments in the afternoon.
If she’s not still drowning in emails, that is.
Martha sighs and thinks maybe at least she can stop by the gym
on the way home from work, catch a little personal time that way.
But wait a minute,
no, tonight’s the night she and Mary
are having their new rabbi over to dinner.
She’s got to stop by the store and pick up a few things for dinner.
And the house definitely needs vacuuming,
and she’s got to clean up all those newspapers all over the table.
Just thinking about it all is triggering a headache again.
It’s only 6 a.m. and Martha is already exhausted. Continue reading