Sunday, 23 November 2014

Simplicity of focus or fracturedness of life

We all know how fast our culture moves. If we aren’t keeping up with work demands, we’re keeping up with the Joneses. If it isn’t our kids’ extra-curricular schedules, a schedule we actually use to  control, it’s the digitally social and informational equivalent of Niagara Falls. Something we’re either going to drown in or escape by the skin of our teeth, but certainly something that distracts us, gets us of focus may even take the place of purpose as we are seeking contentment by having more. We crave for contentment something at the end telling us it was a good day . . . a day I would not have spent different even if it would have been my last. But would that not require that we have a clear focus, a clear purpose for our lives?

Each key has its own tone, but only together they make music

One of my favorite quotes on the issue of life and therefor the bigger picture of purpose comes from Ann Hagmann in a great little book called Climbing the Sycamore Tree: A Study on Choice and Simplicity; “Simplicity is an act of the will to reduce the fracturedness of life by centering life around a singleness of purpose.” It sounds a little bit like JESUS to me, cf. Matt 6:33.

Seasons such as Christmas, or Lent is a perfect time for this sort of finding the bigger picture again. I like the contrast of Christmas over against Lent. For one, unlike Lent, Christmas has become very focused on gifts, something good that nonetheless can take Christ's place in our life as the source of true joy and purpose.The idea of the 40 days of Lent is almost the very opposite, removing something we enjoy in order to remind us of the true source of comfort and joy. The idea is to put his blessings in the proper place in our life.

I can’t foresee such a Lenten season this year. I have too many idols, one of which is I, and I’m still convinced that honing my “multi-tasking” skills can create adequate margins to satisfy the urge to perform. Quitting TV will have to do for now. It will take a couple of weeks to get used to it, but I’ll get used to it. I just need to make sure I don't fill my new free time with something else, like working longer, more entertainment, different distraction such as . . .. According to some researchers, the mind simply can’t multi-task. Or if it can, it “impairs one’s cognitive ability similarly to drunkenness.” My wife can attest to this! Watching TV and having a discussion going on with her at the same time. But than there are the forgotten elements of the conversations, I did not buy milk the next morning or made lunch for the kids although according to her O agreed to, I can't remember, I can't multi-task.
These are harmless examples, of course, but they indicate a preoccupation that inhibits normal functioning within a relationship. They say, “Manfred, you’re not fully present; not paying attention; not living with a single purpose, not living your first love, you yourself are at the centre of your attention.”

And even then my attention is so fractured that I have come to believe the only way out is multi-tasking to deal with the obvious shortfalls in so many relationships. But this is simply a symptom of disordered priorities and things are in competition, "I want to have the cake and eat it too." How many relationships or priorities can possibly be at the very centre of my attention, how many ministries can possible have my undivided attention, how many masters can I serve at the same time?

But what keeps us from reducing the fracturedness of our life and its loyalty? Are we listening to the insane amount of flyers and other advertisement that infiltrates our thinking or are we listening to the still small voice of God? Are we seeking contentment by following the Joneses of the world and buying just one more thing, doing one more thing or are we content by knowing that we belong?

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