Speed, noise and Lent

By Peter Pearson

Over the last few days I have been one busy priest. The deanery in which I serve has held meetings for its delegates, for its priests and yesterday we had a liturgical workshop. I attended each of these along with leading the Sunday worship and vestry meeting at my parish, visiting some folks who can’t get out, doing some necessary paperwork, attending our mid-week evening prayer and discussion, connecting with the folks who were responsible for some of the parts of our Lenten observances, answering phone calls, meeting with my spiritual director, walking the dog, chatting with friends on the phone, attending my own 12-Step meeting schedule, talking to my sponsor, and hitting the gym when possible. (Please feel free to add the hyperventilating sound effects for added punch.)

Like you, I’m a busy Christian. For some reason, this morning I thought of Linus Mundy’s statement in his book A Retreat with Desert Mystics: Thirsting for the Reign of God about how the Desert Fathers and Mothers recognized that the greatest enemies of leading a spiritual life are: speed and noise. Perhaps I thought about it because this is the first day in a week that I haven’t over-booked, over-extended, over-done, and, as a result, I am completely over myself. I have no one to blame here; I ‘m nobody’s victim. It’s me. The problem is me.

Maybe this momentary slowing down began when I got home last evening and got a message about the lunar eclipse that was happening through the evening. I grabbed my binoculars, ones given to me by someone I love and admire who died last year, and went out to watch. Did you ever notice how s-l-o-w lunar eclipses are? It was especially apparent because it was pretty cold last night up here in Pennsylvania. Maybe it began when I built a fire in the wood stove and lay on the couch with my dog to warm up and found myself delighting in the dance of the flames. Maybe I helped it along when I turned the phone off before heading to bed so I would get a good night’s sleep. And maybe I am missing Lent along with lots of other wonderful moments in my life due to the rapid fire speed at which I live. Maybe I should slow down.

Along with all my business, I have loads of noise in my life too. First, there’s the cell phone and you already know how that goes. I can be reached anytime, anywhere, by anyone and it all seems urgent. When I am not on the phone, I am at the computer (like I am now) getting all the news and weather and commentary about all sorts of vital things. When I am in the car, I like to listen to public radio or books on tape so I can keep up with the whole Hillary vs. Obama thing and The New York Times’ picks of good books to read or listen to. Oddly, I don’t have a television and wear that fact as a badge of honor around my poor, unenlightened friends who watch mindless things like “Project Runway” and “Survivor” and talk about these programs like they’re important. Funny but I seldom realize how mindless my noise can be at times. Still, have you ever really listened to a deep, thick silence? I have and I loved it but somehow I forget that fact every time I reach for the phone, the radio, the ear phones, or the computer. I guess you could say there’s a great deal of noise in my life.

Reflecting on the amount of speed and noise in my life makes it apparent that I am not as attentive to my spiritual life as I sometimes think I am. Heck, I’m not even good at just being still and silent whether it’s a spiritual thing or not. I suppose I could go to town beating myself up for what I am NOT doing here but it just occurred to me that even the simple fact that I am attending to and reflecting on my need to slow down and be quiet is itself a beginning. Years ago my therapist said that, “Problems are seen leaving.” Let’s hope she’s right.

So, if you find that you can relate to my life, my insane addiction to speed and noise, perhaps you can just spend some time honestly looking at the truth of your life and see the insanity of it all. Breathe it in and sit quietly for a few moments. That’s a beginning.

Just breathe.

The Rev. Peter Pearson is priest in charge at Saint Philip’s Church in New Hope, Pa. He is a former Benedictine monk and icon painter.

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