Being Still - A Curse of Modern Living

We may be wearing busyness as a badge of honour, when we should be concentrating on putting on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6: 13 – 18) It could be sign that we feel as though we are too busy to live for God; however, we will not be too busy to die – it’s in God’s schedule!

Our lives have become, as Jane Austen once described it, ‘Life seems to be a quick succession of busy nothings.’ The busyness can be a constructive business, where we are contributing to the flourishing of our fellow men, women and children. However, it can often lead to a more negative mindset with us thinking any or more of the following:

·         I’m overloaded
·         I’m not sure that I can cope
·         I have no space
·         I’m bad at managing time
·         I’m disorganised
·         I feel slightly out of control

Any of those thought processes will overwhelm you so that you can hardly move, being paralysed so that you cannot help yourself or anyone else.

The psalmist has put modern life into a nutshell: ‘In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat’ and the solution is found that God ‘for while they sleep He provides for.’ (Psalm 127: 2, alternative reading)

We rush through our days, too busy to account for one slice of time. We fail to stand back. Whether we are in a large or small organisation, a church or the school classroom, we are so perpetually busy that we fail how people are really doing, being content to just react to statistics.

We think that we can cram as much activity as possible so that we will get all the items on our list done. Jesus asked the question: ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?’ (Matthew 6: 27) The answer is that we will probably detract from our lives, with the onset of peptic ulcers, strokes and heart attacks because we are so stressed.

We are called to be holy people (1 Peter 2: 9), people who are set aside to be different, yet we maintain that we have to be as busy as the rest of the world.

The Preacher tells it like this: ‘Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom  am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless – a miserable business.’ (Ecclesiastes 4: 7 – 8) There is the isolation when we are engaged in hard work; because the irony is, as we work hard, we lose touch with our family and friends, and experience the lack of love. The situation can and does arise that we can become absent parents, spouses, children, friends even if we are in the same room as others, because our minds and attention is so directed towards other situations, such as work. We may have slowed down, but our brains will be still rushing around with the thoughts of the office or factory floor.

There is actually a definition for this hurry sickness, which is: ‘a continuous struggle to accomplish more things and participate in more events in less time, frequently in the face of opposition, real or imagined, from other people.’[1]

The psychiatrist Carl Jung said perceptively that: ‘Hurry is not OF the devil. Hurry IS the devil.’[2]

C S Lewis imagines a fictional demonic protagonist stating: ‘all has been occupied by Noise – Noise, the great dynamism, the audible expression that is exultant, ruthless, and virile – Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down the end.’[3]

The tell-tale sign is that, in the Introduction of a book that proports to inform its readers to do less, are these words: ‘This is the book that I thought I didn’t have time to write. It is also the book you think you don’t have time to read. The reason for me, and perhaps for you, is admin.’[4]

In one piece of research, for example, it was discovered that most men preferred to receive an electric shock rather than be left to their own devices.[5]

There is the temptation to say that people had more time in past times, but we have ‘labour saving’ devices. It could be that they used their time more wisely than we do.

It can come even in those times that we are supposed to enjoy. There are song lyrics that explore the hustle at Christmas:

December comes then disappears
Faster and Faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace[6]

Amy Cuddy spoke of her experience: ‘I used to panic under certain kinds of pressure… I went into full-blown make-it-better-by-doing-something-anything mode, all from a place of anxiety and threat.

‘On many of these occasions, my friend, Holly, an unfaltering voice of reason, would remind me, “You don’t have to do anything today.”…Just as speaking slowly, taking pauses, and occupying space are related to power, so, too, is taking your time to figure out how to respond and slowing down your decision-making process in high-pressure moments…Because here’s the thing about my rushed, panicked responses ;pattern: like making myself physically small, it was an expression of feeling powerless, and it always backfired. Why rush to make what will likely be a poor decision when stress is already preventing me from operating on all cylinders? That’s not boldness; it’s just reactivity.’[7]

We can be so busy and add so much strain into our lives. There are so many ‘things’ that we want to add to our lives – a larger house (with more rooms to clean), more cars (with additional upkeep such as checking water and oil, servicing and cleaning) and the list goes on.

The song by Twenty One Pilots also illustrate the point:[8]

Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It’s on my sleeve

My skin will scream reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me

I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel

A therapist, Ales Zivkovic, explained: ‘One of the problems I see from a societal point of view is that success obsession and workaholism are idealised in modern western cosmopolitan society. Unlike other addictions – take for instance drug addiction or alcoholism – there doesn’t seem to be any despise or shame associated with workaholism. On the contrary, general society sees it as an ideal. Just take a look at the messages entrepreneurs are bombarded with and how idolised the ability to burn yourself out and overwork yourself is in the business world. This makes workaholism harder to tackle.’[9]

There are commentaries and seminars on how to be effective by reorganising your work practices, but there is a rarity of those espousing that you are to step away from the work situation altogether.

Peter Kreeft in his commentary on Blaise Pascal commented: ‘We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hole in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.’[10]

Flannery O’Connor, a great author from the United States, wrote to God as she started her literary career: ‘Perhaps the feeling I keep asking for, something again selfish – something to help me feel that everything is alright.’[11]

Devin Foley, in his commentary on her words, states: ‘We aren’t meant for this noisy existence. In silence we are forced to confront that which is not right with ourselves, while in noise we escape. The noise does not make things right, we simply move from one noise to another while never learning how to be, to have a sense that “with me all is right.”

‘We can continue down this path, filling our being with noise and distraction, hoping for peace. But it seems to me that unless we are willing to enter the furnace of silence, it will be quite difficult for us to find the true peace we so desperately seek in our chaotic, atomised times.’[12]

It seems as though we want to keep our minds distracted by the avalanche of noise that can be found by activating the television, radio, smart speaker or other devices. Silence scares us as we have to confront what is within us and outside us, often which is beyond our control so we think that the noise will remove the need to think about it – at least, that is our reasoning.

A W Tozer commented that: ‘The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.’[13]

There may be times when we are very busy, but being in a prolonged state means wither that we are escaping from something or someone, or trying to gain acceptance from God, another person or even ourselves.

We make sure that there is nothing left in, what Richard Swenson terms, ‘the margin.’ It is the space between our load and our limits[14]. When emergencies and crisis hits, we have no capacity to take this occurrences into account. When the looming deadline or the sudden illness causes us or a loved one to waylay previously cherished plans, there is no leeway to accommodate these events so we feel even more under pressure.

We always say after a major life event – the death of a loved one, an illness, a personal trauma (such as a redundancy), etc. – that it will change our lives and we will slow down, but we quickly revert to our default position of being busy, even to the extent that we go into hyperdrive.

In her collection of short essays, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard gives this wise counsel: ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labour with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order – willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.’[15]

The ancient philosopher, Seneca, argued that busyness is a decision: ‘No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse or check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favour. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside, What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile, death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.’[16]

We think that, in numbing ourselves from thinking about eternity (hence, the rise of the ‘nones’ who are not anti-religious but have honestly not thought about the eternal perspective), we think that we are putting off our deep thinking until it is too late.

In his Choruses from ‘The Rock,’ T S Eliot wrote:

All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

We think that putting our foot on the accelerator will help in our predicament, but it only makes things worse.

Moses prayed: ‘Teach us to number our days aright, so that may gain a heart of wisdom.’ (Psalm 90: 12)

In response to our contest to be as busy as busy, Augustine of Hippo reminded us that ‘God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.’[17]

I am reminded that, at an end of a Christian conference, the speaker hoped that everyone would have a safe journey and that the angels would be with the attendees up to the speed of 70 miles per hour, for if we went faster, we would be on our own.

It does not matter where we are, the pull of busyness is prevalent. A journalist asked Thomas Merton to diagnose the leading spiritual malaise of the modern era, the monk replied succinctly that it was efficiency. The reason was that: ‘From the monastery to the Pentagon, the plant has to run…and there is little time after that to do anything else.’[18]

A study by psychologists at Harvard University discovered that we spend about 47 per cent of our time thinking about something else rather than the task in front of us. [19]

It has been described by mindfulness expert Tom Evans in these words: ‘Our wandering minds vault from vault to vault – like tree monkeys – which can leave us feeling unhappy, restless and stressed.’ [20]

It has a physical impact on us as we seek to fill our lives with activities that will suck our energy from our bodies. ‘When our minds are running at a million miles an hour, our bodies can’t keep up,’ explained Dr Libby Weaver. ‘Rushing can make up feel stressed, disrupt our concentration and impact our sleep.’[21]

Often we are like hamsters – alternating between frantic activity and being asleep.

School teachers have found that writing comments at the end of a student’s piece of work (such as how to improve it)  is counterproductive because all the student wants to know is the score and then they move onto the next thing. Even at a young age, an item is of interest for the slightest moment before they move onto something that will catch their attention.

In conferences and other large gatherings, even Christian ones, there can be a tendency to go to every possible event rather than being strategic, even to the extent of going to seminars that are not and may never be part of your life. If you are anything like me, you would have made copious notes, which we must re-visit in order to get the maximum benefit out of them.

I am all for Christians to attend Bible conferences and other events like that as we gain God’s perspective on how we should live in the world that He created. It may be that you especially need a retreat to a bubble of splendid isolation with God before it’s crunch time as you face the next challenge before you. It is easy to go tearing into the next biggest thing without taking a step back without assessing it and, more importantly, getting God’s angle on it.

The tell-tale signs

The tell-tale signs that you are speeding up with no prospect of slowing down can be there for all to see[22]:

·         There is the inability to control your emotions

When you get irritable with your nearest and dearest, alarm bells should be ringing. It can also be manifested in feeling anxious, depressed and/or overwhelmed. It feels as though you are not in control of your life.

When you think that there will be markers in your life when you think that it will all slow down (such as having a baby, retirement, moving to another location), it does not and can even push us into another season of busyness.

It can be that we pile the pressure on ourselves, out of perfectionism or another cause, so that the cap of our internal boilers blows and other people have to feel the steam coming out of us.

·         Lack of self-care

When there are deadlines to meet or the household chores that are building up, we can neglect the necessity of eating and drinking healthily, and taking the appropriate physical activity. The result is that you could become obese or overweight, which will lead, in turn, to serious physical and mental health condition possibly reducing your life expectancy.

It could also be demonstrated in the lack of personal hygiene or the loss of regard for your personal appearance. The sign that you are living too fast can be seen in un-ironed shirts or blouses and in unkempt hair.

·         Illness

It is noticeable that the number of teachers attending doctors’ surgeries rises once schools have ended their terms. It is because teachers have been living on adrenaline which declines once the pressure is off.

It could be that illness could be a way of God telling you through your body that changes are to be made to your lifestyle.

·         Chronic Lateness

There is no such thing as being ‘fashionably late’ – it is sign of rudeness and it gives the impression that you do not care.

It is often caused by acceding to the claims made by other people or wanting to be involved in too many activities. It might not be these that caused the lateness in and of themselves, but we may feel too lethargic to be motivated to be on time.

The result may be that we disappoint people who may not be involved of you having too many commitments.

There has to recognition as to what our limits are and we are to set our priorities. We need to put a guard on our time and energy.

·         Self-medicating and Excess

When the demands of life are overwhelming, self-medication is one of the popular responses. It could be going to the medicine cupboard to have more than the recommended number of pain relief tablets as we are experiencing headaches due to the pressure we have put upon ourselves.

The excess could be going to the extreme of over-exercising where we try to compensate for our lack of physical wellbeing most of the time. It will result in harm to our bodies as we are meant to treat it well. Alternatively, we can be over-indulging in our favourite sugar-laden snack item, almost to the point that we think that we are owed it.

There can be over-sleeping as we try to catch up on the nights spent beavering away or worrying about that pile of work that is outstanding.

If we are not living as God intended, we will find that they are empty and broken canisters that will not satisfy us as we seek to be revived and restored.

The reliance of things to escape our bulging to-do list is a warning sign that we need to reduce our busyness and take time out to get a right perspective. Otherwise, there are the real dangers that we will end up feeling empty and in a distant relationship with God as we have sought to place other idols in front of Him.

·         Neglecting Important Relationships

In closing the door to your home, you should be putting behind the busyness at work, although we often invite it in before the door is shut. There will be occasions when it will be inevitable when work has to be done, but if it is undertaken on a regular basis, there has to be a personal audit as to whether it is affecting  your relationships with those who you really care for- your spouse, children, close friends, family, church friends and colleagues.

If the slightest feel of guilt is felt, it is the warning light that something has to change. We will start to feel guilt and then apathy will set in, which will culminate in either distancing yourself from them or serious restorative measures in order to get the relationship back to where it should be. It can be that, if we wander away from others as we are on the byway of work, there may not be the opportunity to bring it back as the song ‘Cat’s in the cradle’ (the lyrics of which are reproduced at the end of the article) illustrates.

In the Creation narrative, it would have easy for God to set Adam in the Garden of Eden to work for as long and as hard as Adam wanted. However, God pointed out that Adam was not created for the solitary lifestyle as building and maintaining relationships were an integral part of his identity for ‘it is not good for a man to be alone.’ (Genesis 2: 18)

·         Neglecting God

It is not the same as neglecting church. When we shorten or forgo our time with God in reading His word or communicating with Him then we are in real trouble. It is in having that walking together moments that we get His viewpoint on us, our lives and how we are to respond to those around us. It is part of His grand design in that we were meant to be in communion with Him and not run in our own little ways.

When you look around the world, it is clear that slower activities are gaining interest, for example, sitting down and reading a book (although it is possible to fast read), gardening or cooking (including, in its slowest format, baking bread). According to ClassPass in 2017, the activity that has seen the greatest growth in the health and fitness sector in the United States was meditation, restorative and recovery classes.[23]

A survey among adults in the United States found that one in four found time to get outside  and think deeply. The research group found that the following were used in Christian or ‘spiritual’ ‘self-care’:[24]

25% Spending time in nature for reflection
21% Reading books on spiritual topic
19% Meditation
16% Practicing silence and/or solitude
14% Journaling or writing your thoughts
12% Yoga
12% Attending groups or retreats

Failure to sit down and think will be detrimental to our lives, whether it be school, work, leisure and even church. In all of our activity, we are not letting our thoughts or, even worse, God to come through.

Seneca, again, gives wise words from his writings On the Shortness of Life: ‘It is not that we have short time to live, but we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements, if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in needless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realise that it has passed away before we knew that it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…Life is long if you know how to use it.’[25]

He then proceeds to caution that we are to treat time like a precious commodity: ‘You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you have a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you devoting to someone or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire…How late it is to really live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!’[26]

There is the saying ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure’; however, this principle could be applied to any activity that we are involved in – e.g. employment, hobbies, relationships.
Henri Nouwen explained his situation: ‘I realised that I was caught in a web of strange paradoxes. While complaining about too many demands, I felt uneasy when none were made. While speaking about the burden of letter writing, an empty mailbox made me sad. While fretting about tiring lecture tours, I felt disappointed when there were no invitations. While speaking nostalgically about an empty desk, I feared the day on which that would come true. In short, while desiring to be alone, I was frightened of being left alone. The more I became aware of these paradoxes, the more I started to see how much I had indeed fallen in love with my own compulsions and illusions, and how much I needed to step back and wonder, “Is there are quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of my little world? Is there a still point where my life is anchored and from which I can reach out with hope and courage?”’[27]

In the United Kingdom, a survey undertaken by Microsoft showed that almost a third of employees are sacrificing regularly personal time for work matters. It was discovered that 56 per cent of the respondents admitted to answering work-related calls when they were away from the office.

The same survey revealed that employees who were under 35 years-old appeared to apply additional pressure to themselves with 43 per cent of that age group feeling that they needed to prioritise work over their personal lives in order that they would be line for promotion. Single parents were also feeling the pressure as only 26  per cent of this group stating that they were able to prioritise their children because of their work-life balance.[28]

Although John Ortberg gave his definition of life in the United States, it could equally apply anywhere in the world: ‘Being busy is an outward condition, a condition of the body. It occurs when we have things to do. Busyness is inevitable in modern culture…Being hurried is an inner condition, a condition of the soul. It means to be so preoccupied with myself and my life that I am unable to be fully present with God, with myself, and with other people. I am unable to occupy the present moment. Busyness migrates to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives…I cannot live in the kingdom of God with a hurried soul. I cannot rest in God with a hurried soul.’[29]

It is time that we will never get back. My Dad used to tell me that, in getting drunk, it was time that you would never remember and never get back. It is exactly the same where we let work or other activities stop us from being with people. I am reminded of Jacob Marley’s words to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol that mankind should have been his business.

It seems to be contrary to the way of modern living to be still even before God. John Milton expressed it like this:

‘Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.’[30]

In an attempt to get everything done, we resort to multitasking. We have numerous tags open on our computer screen, respond to text or Whatsapp messages, check on our social media, and try to get our heads around important tasks – normally, all at the same time.
Multitasking can have several important consequences[31]:

a.    Can lead to permanent brain damage
MRI scans on research subjects have discovered a reduction in brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls empathy and emotional control.
The brain could be permanently altered after long periods of multitasking, particularly if media devices are involved.

Kep Kee Loh, a neuroscientist and the lead researcher, commented: ‘it is important to create an awareness that the way we are interacting with the devices might be changing the way we think and these changes might be occurring at the level of brain structure.’ [32]

The damage to this area of the brain also affects emotional intelligence so that self- and social awareness could also be diminished.[33]

b.    Reduces efficiency and mental performance

Earl Miller, a leading neuroscientist, states that ‘when we toggle between tasks, the process often feels seamless, but, in reality, it requires a series of small shifts.’[34]

He stated that each shift leads to a cognitive cost, so (like a battery) precious brain resources and energy are being drained.

His advice is to avoid multitasking as ‘It ruins productivity, causes mistakes, and impedes creative thought…As humans, we have a very limited capacity for simultaneous thought, we can only hold a little bit of information in the mind at any single moment.’

As to make the point, other research has found that it takes, on average, 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on a specific piece of work after an interruption.[35]It is, therefore, necessary to consider how much time is lost because of continuous breaks in concentration.
The bad news is, once we are used to the interruptions of checking our social media and browsing the internet, we will be addicted to the dopamine rush of continuous switching tasks. Daniel Levitin, another neuroscientist, explained: ‘Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.’[36]

c.     Creates stress and anxiety

Multitasking increases the brains production of cortisol, the stress-creating hormone. In turn, this produces anxiety and a vicious cycle is created that alternates between stress and anxiety.

David Levitin gives us the scientific explanation: ‘Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. And the kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disorientated after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain.’[37]

The net result is that we make bad decisions that we would not normally make because of the build up decision fatigue, a psychological term that refers to the deterioration of quality decisions after a series of choices have been made.[38]

It has been described in these terms by Daniel Levitin: One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.’[39]

d.    Destroys creativity

Earl Miller has suggested that multitasking could seriously hinder creativity and innovation: ‘Innovative thinking, after all, comes from external concentration…When you try to multitask, you typically don’t get far enough down any road to stumble upon something original because you’re constantly switching and backtracking.’[40]

When it is considered how great works of art or technology were conceived, or how inventions were constructed, it is normally through single-mindedness without any interruptions.

Dr Libby Weaver has explained that: ‘The more time we allow our bodies to rest, out of the “fight-flight” stress response, the better.’[41] She is supported by the fact that chronic stress may contribute to several health issues, including high blood pressure[42], anxiety[43], depression[44], obesity[45] and addiction problems[46].

We need to realise that life is a journey and not a sprint. There needs to be pacing like we are in a marathon, not burn ourselves out and then suddenly remember that we have much, much further to run.

It has to be considered that great pieces of art, such as paintings or sculpture, are not hurried.

It is a common experience that people are scared of silence, that is being with ourselves and being with God without distractions. To make the definition clear, silence does not mean sitting down in front of the computer, television, radio or anything else that will divert our attention from concentrating with our mind and with our Maker.

We will develop this thought in a future article.

Cat’s in the cradle

By Harry and Sandra Caplin
(from the Verities & Balderdash album, Elektra, 1974)

My child arrived just the other day,
He came into the world the usual way,
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away,
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He’d say, ‘I’m gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I’m gonna be like you.’

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
‘When you coming home, Dad?’
‘I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.’

My son turned ten just the other day,
He said, ‘Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play.
Can you teach me to throw?’ I said, ‘Not today,
I got a lot to do.’ He said, ‘That’s OK.’
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed,
Said, ‘I’m gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I’m gonna be like him.’

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
‘When you coming home, Dad?’
‘I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.’

Well, he came home from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
‘Son, I’m proud of you. Can you sit a while?’
He shook his head, and he said with a smile,
‘What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys,
See you later,
Can I have them please?’

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
‘When you coming home, Dad?’
‘I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Son,
You know we’ll have a good time then.’

I’ve long since retired, and my son’s moved away,
I called him up just the other day.
I said, ‘I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.’
He said, ‘I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu,
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad.
It’s been sure nice talking to you.’

And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
‘When you coming home, Son?’
‘I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad,
You know we’ll have a good time then.’

[1]Frank Powell, ‘7 ways a hurried life hurts your heart,’
[3] C S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Harper Collins, London, 1998) p. 87
[4]Elizabeth Emens, The Art of Life Admin: How to do less, do it better and live more (Penguin, London, 2019) p.1
[5]Timothy D Wilson et al, ‘Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind,’ Science, 345 (6192), 4 July 2014: 75 – 77,
[6] ‘I need a Silent Night’ written by Amy Grant/Chris Eaton© BMG Rights Management US, LLC, 2008
[7]Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges(Orion, London, 2016) pp. 249 - 250
[8]Twenty One Pilots, ‘Car Radio’ from the album ‘Regional at Best,’ Fueled by Ramen (FBR) label, 2011
[10]Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1993), p. 168
[11]Quoted in ‘My Dear God,’ The New Yorker, 16 September 2013,
[12]Devin Foley, ‘Why can’t we handle silence?’ Intellectual Takeout, 17 April 2019,
[14]Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy (Inter Varsity Press, Nottingham, 2013), p. 27
[18]Quoted in Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern (Crossroad Publishing, New York), p. 40
[19]‘Wandering mind not a happy mind,’ The Harvard Gazette, November 2010
[20]‘Time for a life refresh,’ Boots Health and Beauty, March/April 2017
[22] I am grateful for the suggestions in Alli Worthington, ‘7 Signs You’re Way Too Busy,’ Relevant magazine, 2 October 2019,
[23]‘ClassPass Shares Breakdown of U S. Fitness Trends,’ ClassPass, 1 December 2017,
[24][24]Findings from Barna reported in ‘How to Christian or ‘spiritual Americans practice ‘self-care’?’ Christian Today, 19 April 2018,
[27]Henri Nouwen, The Genese Diary (Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1995 ) pp. 13 - 14
[28]Microsoft survey cited in Jeff Parsons, ‘Brits can’t keep up with ‘always on’ work culture, research finds,’ Metro, 9 October 2019.
[29][29]John Ortberg, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You(Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014) pp. 162 - 153
[30]John Milton, ‘When I consider how my light is spent,’
[31] CP Janssen, SJJ Gould, SYW Li, CR Brumby and AL Cox, ‘Integrating knowledge of multitasking and interruptions across different perspectives and research methods,’ International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, issue 79: 1 – 5,
[32]KK Loh and R Kanai, ‘Higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex,’ PLoS One9 (9), 24 September 2014, e 106698,
[33]Travis Bradberry, ‘Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Your Career, New studies Suggest,’ Talentsmart,,-New-Studies-Suggest-2102500909-p-1.html
[34]Earl Miller, ‘Here’s why you shouldn’t multitask, according to an MIT Neuroscientist,’ Fortune, 7 December 2016,
[35] Gloria Mark, Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Kloche, ‘The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress,’ University of California Irvine,
[36]Daniel Levitin, ‘Why the modern world is bad for your brain,’ The Guardian, 18 January 2015,; see also Daniel Levitin, The Organised Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload (Penguin UK, London, 2015)
[37]Daniel Levitin, ‘Why the modern world is bad for your brain,’ The Guardian, 18 January 2015,; see also Daniel Levitin, The Organised Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload (Penguin UK, London, 2015)
[38]Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav and Liora Avnaim-Pesso, ‘Extraneous factors in judicial decisions,’ PNAS 108 (17), 26 April 2011: 6889 – 6892,
[39]Daniel Levitin, ‘Why the modern world is bad for your brain,’ The Guardian, 18 January 2015,; see also Daniel Levitin, The Organised Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload (Penguin UK, London, 2015)
[40]Earl Miller, ‘Here’s why you shouldn’t multitask, according to an MIT Neuroscientist,’ Fortune, 7 December 2016,
[41]Go with the slow,’ Boots Health & Beauty, July/August 2018
[42]Tanya M Spuill, ‘Chronic Psychosocial Stress and Hypertension,’ Current Hypertension Reports 12 (1), February 2010: 10 – 16,
[43] A Vyas, A G Pillai and S Chattarji, ‘Recovery after chronic stress fails to reverse amygdaloid neural hypertrophy and enhanced anxiety-like behaviour,’ Neuroscience, 128 (4), 2004: 667 – 673,
[44] Gustavo E Tafet and Renato Bernardini, ‘Psychoneuroendocrinological links between chronic stress and depression,’ Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 27 (6), September 2003: 893 – 903,
[45]Mary F Dallman et al, ‘Chronic Stress and obesity: A new view of “comfort food”.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States (PNAS), 30 September 2003, 100 (20): 11696 – 11701,
[46]Rajita Sinha, ‘Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction,’ Annals of the New York Academy of Science, October 2008, issue 1141: 103 – 130,