Mar25ThuWe’ve been forced to pause—let’s make sure we use this time to focus on what really matters in life. March 25, 2021 by Major Owen Budden
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In the ’60s and ’70s, it was forecasted that we would all have extra leisure time in the future. With the invention of washing machines and dryers, electric stoves and robotics in the workplace, the future appeared to hold a life of leisurely pursuits bordering on Utopia. We were assured we would work a three-, or at the most, a four-day week. One of the working-class issues to be faced would be what to do with all our leisure time. The future does not always unfold as the prophets envision.
Since the inception of the internet in the ’90s and the rapid acceleration of technology, the world has been connected in ways we could have never dreamed. Yet, in the midst of all this connectivity, our society is plagued by loneliness and isolation. Technology has done the opposite of what was forecasted. People work 60 hours or more a week. Working from home is now the norm and many workers are expected to be on duty 24-7. Work-related business often takes place after so-called work hours. Work is taken home to be completed on a laptop and cellphones are almost additional appendages.
For many, work has become all-consuming. Only diligent and disciplined individuals can carve out free time in their schedules. Often, this free time is spent sleeping or being engaged in some type of screen time. The practices of silence, solitude, meditation or walking or running for enjoyment are a fading concept. It seems that people work, work, work, and then plan a resort vacation to replenish the batteries, and the cycle begins again.
A Meaningless Race
Since COVID-19 invaded our lives in the spring of 2020, we have been forced to re-think our behaviours and priorities; to rethink how to live life. A different reality is upon us and it is changing us. For many, the desire to reclaim the normal remains. People are in a sort of mourning for the life that was unceremoniously snatched from them. Our routines, traditions and relationships with loved ones have all become strained. COVID-19 permeates and dominates almost every conversation. Humanity has been forced to move to the sidelines as an invisible force throws our lives into a tailspin.
If we could pull out of this tailspin for a time and reflect on what is happening and what we have been pulled away from, there may be something to learn. Maybe this is a time for humanity to focus on what really matters in life. We want to get back to “normal,” which for many means a life of busyness and exhaustion that often leads to declining health and burnout.
People who want “normal” back are saying they want to put the blindfold back on, to follow the cultural expectations and run with increasing speed toward an abyss of nothingness. This is comforting because it is what we know.
As vaccines are increasingly available, we will have the opportunity to return to this “normal,” but do we really want to go back to the kind of life where exhaustion is the only reason to take a sabbatical? Many of us have been caught up in a system that placed an unhealthy focus on work, pulling us away from the important things of life. The measure of the system’s strength was the profit margins posted by the banks, airlines, technology industries, petroleum companies and others. But the future the system promises is unattainable. It often results in people retiring and dying within five years. For many retirees, life becomes boring and empty, simply because they had no time during their working years to establish strong friendships or develop hobbies and interests. Many feel the pangs of isolation and loneliness once their reason for living—work—has been removed.
Pause and Reflect
Can we take this time of forced reprieve to slow down and even stop the meaningless race we are running? The writer of Ecclesiastes had a phrase for many of these goals and initiatives: “meaningless” or “vanity.” The writer’s observation comes after he had pursued the things he thought would bring happiness and fulfilment. His conclusion? Seek God and contentment in life while you are young. Have we been chasing the phantoms of prosperity and riches as a sign of success? There is so much more to life. We have willingly been blindfolded by the systems of this world that demand we run at an ever-increasing pace.
When we are told that life can resume as normal, can we stop for a time of reflection before venturing back into the old routine? Can we take some time to pause and reflect on what really matters? Will we have room for friends and loved ones in this new society? Or will we be coerced by the systems to “catch up” on lost time? Will we succumb to these pressures or will we seek ways to develop deeper connections—with ourselves, our loved ones and with God?
Plan now to get off the speeding treadmill, to stop running a race blindfolded to an abyss leading to nothingness. Let’s not waste this opportunity to nurture life-giving rhythms.
Major Owen Budden is the corps officer at Meadowlands in Hamilton, Ont.
Illustration: hofred/iStock via Getty Images Plus