Maintenance outside and in: Don’t just do something – sit there.

Last week I was a little down in my facetime in front of my computer.  On Friday, I spent my normal routine in reading the NY Times, and then opened my Microsoft Outlook, and for some strange reason it wouldn’t open.

I tried my other MS Office applications, and the same thing happened.  Other than Windows, Microsoft went on strike. 

Sigh.

It started a week of maintenance on lots of things – my car, my computer, myself – “that time of the month” when I go to the chemo ward for my phelobotomy, going to the dentist, surgeon for a couple of rechecks (all fine, thanks) and setting up a couple other appointments.

I hate working on my computer. I know I graduated from an Institute of Technology and all, but really, computers aren’t my specialty.  Sure, I was the IT back-up at my previous company – but I really didn’t know what I was doing. I sure didn’t want my number called – all I had a little document that I wrote down whatever I thought I was supposed to do and never ended up using it.  Besides, most of the time I would tell people to turn their computer off and then on again, and presto! – it worked.

But as I was waiting getting my car fixed (costing way more than I had hoped), working on my computer (which would later crash), getting blood drawn in the chemo ward, sitting under a knife, my mind drifted to the role of maintenance in other unseen things.

One of my favorite improv comedy shows in Chicago is called, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”   

Too Much Activity Makes the Andy Go Crazy.

Believe me, I can work a lot.  I’ve worked a few too many 100 hour weeks and even more than 24 hours straight a couple times. I used to be proud of that – kind of a Bilhorn thing.

But it does take its toll.

At the end of this week, I’m headed out to the country in Wisconsin to have my regular two days of silence. It’s a long road trip where I drive out to clear my lungs, my mind, and often my heart gets soft once again.  

My soul needs maintenance.  As I get older, I need it more. Ministry isn’t a detached, impersonal activity. My friends lovingly make fun of me because of my capacity to create spreadsheets and look at data.  I think it’s an escape for me – data is often impersonal and doesn’t cause me to be emotionally drained.  

If you do ministry right, you enter in – and that is dangerous. If I don’t take care of my soul, I begin to die, and ministry dies with it.

Americans are known internationally for our capacity for produce – to be productive. Sitting and doing nothing is considered a waste of time.  We’ve often heard it said, “don’t just sit there – do something!”

An old Filipino proverb takes the reverse idea, saying, “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” It’s not something we Americans in our hyperactive lives do (nor I), but I need it more with age.

In a culture that values me for what I produce, write, say, speak, act, make, create, it’s time for me to cease and be still, and let my soul rest and be valued not for what it produces.

At the end of the week, as it goes against every activistic bone in my body, I won’t just do something.  I’ll sit there, and let God under the hood of my life and do some maintenance.

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2 Responses to “Maintenance outside and in: Don’t just do something – sit there.”


  1. 1 Robert March 24, 2009 at 4:15 am

    I was always surprised at how draining it was to work with people. It think it provided a source of recharge at the same time…if you gave it some time to sink in and take effect.

    I kind of found a ‘to-do’ list comforting. If I had some down time or motivation I knew exactly where to channel it. If I wanted to relax and play hooky…then you had something to play hooky from. If all of your stuff is done, then the playing hooky kind of looses some of its value.

    I find myself in the reverse now. I was forcefully removed from my ‘to-do’ list (by my own choice though). Now I have this time…I think people call it free time? But it lacks significant structure, making it a challenge to use in a productive manner.

    You know what they say “No beer and TV make Homer go something…something…something…”

  2. 2 The Rambling Taoist March 24, 2009 at 4:54 am

    You should try to learn the Taoist concept of we wei — doing without doing. It’s a way to just sit there and yet accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Once we each get better in tune with the natural rhythms of the universe, we find that “going with the flow” means getting a lot accomplished through a minimum of conscious effort.


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