Time is free, but it isn't cheap.
- Erie Chapman
A friend, who lives in a small Tennessee town north of Nashville, likes to whittle with some of his companions. "We don't try to make anything," he told me. "We just sit and whittle for two or three hours. Sometimes we talk. Lots of the time, we say nothing. I don't know if it's a meditation or not but it's very restful.
Conscientious people sometimes feel that free time is wasted unless it's filled with completing tasks. I don't know if I'm conscientious, but I sure find it hard to sit and do nothing. It seems as though there are always so many things to do!
Yet, task-free time can be essential to balance...
In the Journal, we talk a lot about meditation, prayer and deep reflection. There are many other forms of rest that are equally important.
Our physical bodies seek homeostasis. When they are out of balance, we are ill. The same is true with the spirit. The spirit needs balance and for balance, it must have time to breathe, to rest, and to reflect about nothing more simple or complex than the texture of a moment.
Introverts often rest most easily by themselves. Extroverts, like my friend, find a better quality of rest if they can "do nothing" with companions.
Bridge, gardening, reading, knitting are often referred to as hobbies rather than "real work." It turns out that people who engage in activities like these significantly enrich the quality of their lives.
Oddly, these kinds of activities are often referred to as "pastimes," ways to "pass the time" as if we were all in a hurry to return to tasks. Every healthy work place creates space for staff members to rest and reflect. This is not wasted time. These are moments when the spirit gains nourishment that is critical to health.
Time is free, but it isn't cheap. Instead, time is valuable because it is limited. We even talk of time as something that is "spent." The better the quality of our time, the better the quality of our lives.
When I told my wife about my friend and his whittling, she gave a warm and reverential smile. "How nice," she said. "What a lovely way to spend time."
So many of us underestimate the wisdom, the beauty and the luxury of time lived doing nothing. Imagine if you entered on your palm pilot calendar an appointment scheduled you to "Do nothing" from 10:00-10:30? Imagine if your supervisor asked to come see you and you said, "Sorry, I have an appointment to do nothing."
Caregivers need time to rest. And they need more than a ten minute break. Most European countries understand this and allow long lunch hours.
But while we're waiting for this revolution to come to America, perhaps we could recognize that whatever free time we have is a gift - a time for a form of spiritual practice. Perhaps free time is to be treasured, rather than just passed.