Behind and Beyond the Break

“What are you doing for the Christmas break?”

This question frequents coffee shops and bus stops these days. My holiday has already begun, and yesterday afforded me the opportunity to spend some time playing board games with family. My youngest, after a time, suggested we should do more of this – more board games. This equates to more family time, less tech time; more quality time, less on-the-fly time. At one level, it all comes down to time. What we do during a holiday break speaks to what we do in the time on each side of the fissure which is the Christmas break.

I like the word break. I like its ambiguity. On the one hand, a break is a stop, or a rest; a moment for repose. Lunch break, coffee break, a break from the daily grind: these all point to the manner in which we need a moment in the midst of the many mundane tasks that front as productivity in our world wearied by the need to appear important, productive and competent. The sad truth is too often busy-ness simply masks fear. We scramble to do more because we fret about being found incompetent; a vice that I am reticent to contribute to the work ethics of rascally Protestants. I think this anxiety affects the human condition. We need a break from this angst, which brings me to the other manner in which we talk about a break.

A break is also associated with rupture, trauma, and disconnection. Arms are broken. Friendships are broken. Promises are broken. The images that we connect with this kind of break are not so positive: what are you doing with this Christmas break? What are we doing about the disconnect between the Christmas message of love incarnate and the crass commercial fiction that love can be bought; a fiction that leaves people in emotional and financial disarray in January? Do we even think about this Christmas break?

It seems to me that these two breaks are connected. The realization that what we do and what we value are utterly disparate shatters our sense of self; as individuals and as communities. It leaves us wondering who we are, but it also invites us to take up this question earnestly. And that takes time. A break commands a break. A break poses life altering questions: why isn’t there enough time for a family game? Why isn’t there enough time for the creative juices to flow? Why isn’t there enough time to take a break? Why, indeed.