Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 26, 2007
Give thanks for life's interruptions
Recently, my wife was driving down one of Edmonton's busier streets. Seeing an elderly woman with a cane, Nora stopped to let her cross the street although the woman was not in a crosswalk. In the lane to the left of my wife, a car with a British Columbia licence plate stopped. In the next lane, a third vehicle stopped, the driver exhibiting some impatience.
The woman made her way across the busy street and the vehicles began to pull away. As they did, my wife could hear the driver of the third vehicle, having rolled down her window, screaming at the driver in the middle lane, abusing him for stopping to allow "a jaywalker" to cross.
No doubt the driver in the middle lane formed some opinion of "ugly Albertans." No doubt also that many of our readers have been through similar experiences.
It is perhaps not too far-fetched - based on personal experience rather than on scientific survey - to hazard an opinion that such incidents of road rage are more common today than say, 20 or 30 years ago. It might be going too far to speculate on the reasons for the upsurge.
But it would not be going too far to say that while incidents of road rage may be morally reprehensible, they are, at root, the sign of a problem that is spiritual. This is not to suggest that Christians or other believers are immune from such outbursts or even that atheists or agnostics are more prone to blow their top over trivial driving delays.
It is true that our time on earth is limited and that we should make the best use of the time we have been given. However, time is not a machine, but an experience. In that time, we are handed interruptions, often by the barrel full. Those interruptions disturb our plans and may even make us believe we are not making the most efficient use of our God-given time.
Efficiency is a value, but it is also a tin god. If we idolize it, a lot of other values may get trampled. The jaywalker, cane in hand, must always be wary of idolatry roaring along on four wheels.
Indeed, it is not just the person crossing the street who may be laid flat by the time idolater. We are in a world ruled by real and imaginary deadlines, over-scheduled Daytimers and too many tasks that must be done.
Then, there are the handicapped people, the injured workers, the millions in refugee camps, the widows and others without partners, and those in nursing homes for whom time can hang like a heavy weight. Perhaps their lives do not make the same economic contribution to society. Perhaps they have other contributions to make that are not being valued.
It is fair to say that as a society we are becoming less attentive to those on the economic margins. Attentive is the key word. For if efficiency is a virtue, so is attentiveness. It is difficult to be attentive when our heads are jammed with plans, daydreams and noise from the media.
This is why regular times of silence are so important. Real silence that empties the head and makes room for the jaywalker, for the unemployed person, for Jesus.
Lent is a time to be converted. But converted to what? Surely not to tacking religious obligations onto our calendars along with everything else. More likely to open spaces where the interruptions can get in. More likely to being attentive to that which is outside us . . . and deep within us.
There are reasons Jesus said, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me." One reason is that to help the marginalized, one first has to notice them. One has to step out of oneself.
What good are our time, our wealth and our fancy technology if we do not have inner peace, spiritual joy, the ability to enjoy God's creation and a spirit of thanks for life's interruptions?
- Glen Argan
Letter to the Editor - 03/12/07
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