Whew. Eleven days of drinking and hanging out and traveling and just in general screwing around comes to an end. I gotta say, I'm not disappointed. When I was a kid, the post-Christmas blues hit me pretty hard. These days? Not hardly at all. I welcome the return to my workaday world, where I can continue my quest to turn every moment of my day into a productive moment laced with the spirit of play.
The latter is the key: spirit of play. I've gotten pretty good at accepting the world of "total work" (a phrase of condemnation employed by Josef Pieper in The Leisure, the Basis of Culture) as my station in life, but I try to approach each task with a focus of total engagement, thankfulness, and a playful smile. Heaven knows, I haven't mastered this attitude yet, but I owe a debt of gratitude to Robin Daniels for pointing out the path.
I'll have to re-read Pieper's classic work again and try to square it with the busy schedules of many saints, as well as the insight I've gleaned from Daniels. Daniels, btw, doesn't counsel a relentless sweatshop work schedule, but he does advise (and give instructions for attaining) an approach to work (and life in general) that tinges it all with an attitude of play and lightheartedness.
Some choice Daniels quotes:
The art of a fulfilled life is to be energetic without tension, dynamic without agitation, serene but not aloof.
Constant thanksgiving makes you more alert and attentive.
Praise also widens inner vision.
Praise ”“ like love itself ”“ is cumulative: it generates compound growth.
When you pray, you have a chance to turn aside from the duties and demands of the day. By shedding many of these preoccupations for a while, you restore the balance of your focus, as between outer and inner life. Your mind, your breathing and your sense of time slow down. Then you can recollect.
Begin brief devotions when you are inwardly still, silent and receptive.
'Innocence' means, literally, not to harm oneself or others; not to plot, scheme or ensnare; to think the best of people unless shown otherwise. To protect this innocent core, be on your guard against shadow: any form of negative energy including ”“ starting with ”“ one's own, and yet retain a spirit of open-hearted delight and discovery.
From time to time (amidst duties), briefly stop what you are doing. Relax. Observe your pace and your posture. Watch the depth and length of your breathing. Unknot any body tensions. 'Rest, rest, perturbed spirit' (Hamlet, I v). Recommit yourself ”“ your current work and your entire life ”“ to God.
Prayer ”“ in its fullest and widest sense, and ultimate meaning ”“ is not a single action at a specific time, but an all-life, all-governing state of being.
Prayer must not be separated from life: it is life.
The more often, and the more acutely, you observe yourself speaking and behaving with ease, calmness and modest efficiency, the more you will enjoy living from this relaxed and skilful state ”“ even in conditions that are noisy, tense, testing or combative.
Slowing down leads to mental clarity, creativity, wiser decision-making, more relaxed encounters, deeper friendships, safer driving and better digested meals.
The pace of modern life is so fast and fierce, so toxic, that most of us will have to reorder our life radically if we wish to find and establish a personal rhythm that will favour the life of prayer.
Great feast days today: Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and Seraphim of Sarov (the latter, Eastern Orthodox only). An article I wrote years ago about Basil. I also published a companion piece for Gregory Nazianzen, but the heck if I can find it now.