I don’t think my experience is atypical.
I race from meeting to class to appointment to task to gym to bus to social engagement. My life is split apart – too much to do wrestled into too little time. No longer the singular whole I remember life being as a child, it is now shattered into sometimes seemingly disparate bits of time. Singularity escapes me. Perhaps this is a condition of the modern age, or middle age, or both.
In between these pieces of time, broken from one another, I find shards – shards and slivers of time. Little bits: five minutes here, seven minutes there. Sometimes these bits are barely long enough to take a breath. Most often these shards of time are too short to do too much, and yet long enough to make me worry about wasting them. So, I do what I most of you too would do with these fractured five minute moments: I check my emails and start projects that I cannot finish, and so start again, later.
But every now and then, other things beckon. My eyes are drawn up to the painting over my desk. It is an abstract impression of a northern Ontario lake, painted from the perspective of a cliff on the Canadian Shield. The artist has layered colour over colour, and as the light strikes the painting at different times in the day, various hues show through. I find myself both calmed and energized by what I see.
Sometimes, the light that illumines the painting draws my eye outside. Across the street from my office, I see an oak tree. In the winter, bared of leaves, I see that this tree is actually a dance. Branches whirl – twisting they invite me to follow the contour of their contortions and to marvel how chaotic parts make for a symphonic whole.
Usually, the above is much more satisfying than checking my emails.
I call these mini-Sabbaths. Smaller instances of the bigger discipline of stopping: to see, to rest, to pray, just to be. These shards of time remind me that we are invited into repose, into rest, into the Sabbath for a reason. We are recollected, reconnected and resurrected in stopping to remember where we are, who we are, and whose we are. Curious, indeed, is our propensity to be busy instead.