The other morning after daily mass a parishioner meekly asked if she might have a word with me. As I willingly lead her to my office I was struck by the luxury of being able to accept her last minute request. In my former parish I would have looked at such a person with disbelief. I had engagements booked up weeks ahead of time. My daily schedule was crammed with office appointments, funerals, meetings, schedules, and visits to hospitals, classrooms, nursing homes and staff meetings. If a parishioner (or an innocent bystander) had asked me for an impromptu meeting, I might have detonated!
I often consider how frantic our world has become. Tina Brown, in her editorial quoted at the top of the page, captures for me the frenetic atmosphere we live in. The feeling of dread when we open our email and find an endless spool of messages and communiqués. The mechanical voice mail server who announces that you have twenty-four messages. The blur of faces on a Sunday when one has five or six liturgies. Its no wonder people have road rage or surrender to substance abuse. We are worn out and over stimulated – even “relaxing” in front of the television is to subject yourself to a barrage of images, noise, and marketing.
Is it me or do you sense a shift away from all this racket? Am I being idealistic or is the paradigm swinging toward a simpler, quieter, easier life? Most of my friends want a smaller house than the one they are currently living in. They are un-cluttering their attics, closets and drawers. The greed and materialism seem to be abating and a desire for peace, simplicity and the extravagance of viewing nature, listening to your loved ones and the bliss of silence are becoming the goals of my generation. Perhaps this is why Jesus cautioned his disciples to live without multiple belongings and Thoreau suggested “simplicity.” Maybe the greatest indulgence we can acquire is to cultivate an atmosphere in which we are able to listen to a request and instead of screaming, calmly say “yes.”Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder… Henry David Thoreau~