It’s Monday morning. Wind sweeps through the leaves out the window, and the Spring sunshine I basked in yesterday is now a dreary grey.
In my world, Monday is day off. It is rest. This means phone is switched off, emails are off limits, textbooks are closed and my activity throughout the day is slow and thoughtful. I think at a different pace and spend more time reflecting and trying to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Senses feel heightened on this day, as I notice what my food tastes like, marvel in the glory of a carefully chosen craft beer and let background music come to the foreground, hearing all the detail in a song I would often miss.
In my reflective state, I think back over the weekend that has just passed. Like many of my weekends, the one just gone was filled with contrasting contexts that seem almost comical when they’re placed next to each other.
On Saturday night, I stood before an eclectic audience with my friends at The Rhythm Hut. I shared poetry on a variety of topics: about the Jewish concept of Shalom, about my uneasy feelings about some prominent Australian attitudes, about the memory of my grandfather, about the labels we give people and the unhelpful boxes we try to force them to stay in. The evening was filled with all kinds of art and creativity and humanity. Hypnotic reggae mixed with electro sounds, adult themes were sung over ukelele strums, dancing and drinking and hugging were spliced with the strong scents of various kinds of smoke and incense.
On Sunday night, I stood in a very different context. Before another group of friends and community I’m connected with, in the place where I have the title of pastor I preached a sermon about the spiritual disciplines. I talked about Koyaanisqatsi, a word I learnt doing film studies at university, watching the 1982 film by the same name. Koyaanisqatsi is a native American word from the Hopi language, meaning ‘Life out of balance’. I asked if our constant social media browsing, online article skimming, news cycle consuming, digital streaming way of life has impacted our ability to go deep. Has maybe left us with a lot of superficial moments that we glaze over with pretty Instagram filters. I then spoke about a time Jesus slammed some religious leaders and Pharisees for being really good at carrying out religious acts that kept up an external appearance of righteousness, whilst neglecting to let the living spirit of God change them from the inside out. He went so far as to call them whitewashed tombs - beautiful on the outside, but filled with decay on the interior. I pointed out that as much as I love seeing Jesus stick it to the man, maybe I’m the man who needs it stuck to on this one.
I think about Koyaanisqatsi as I sit with my son in the mornings. I think about what life out of balance means. I think about the times when it seems like one thing pulls more than anything else, and the other times when a thousand things seem to pull at the same time. It seems possible to lose your balance like a fly to a lamp, fixating on that one all-consuming thing - or equally possible to find yourself flitting between countless lamps, losing the ability to sit still and remember where you were trying to go in the first place.
Balance is important to me. But it’s difficult. I am bi-vocational and feel deeply committed to both professional roles I have taken on. I’m also a writer, a performance poet, a workshop facilitator, and I find energy that sustains me when I exercise my creative muscles. There’s some study in the mix too. And above all of these things I am trying to be a present and involved father and husband. There’s a lot of risk of Koyaanisqatsi in all of this.
It’s partly why I’ve found a renewed fascination with the spiritual disciplines lately. Practices like solitude and meditation and fasting and study and prayer and confession can stand in such strong contrast with all the to-do lists and events and mental capacity of trying to hold together the web of my life. More and more I’m convinced that the only way to do all these things without constantly tipping out of balance is to anchor myself in healthy disciplines and rhythms. To set up silence to listen in. There are so many small ways to do this. Resisting the urge to listen to a podcast every time I drive the car or do the dishes. Viewing lunch breaks as times to actually just sit and eat some food, rather than a chance to try and squeeze in some more life admin. Treasuring the moments I have sitting with my son very early in the morning, without moving too quickly towards the goals I hope to accomplish that day.
In the pursuit of life in balance, I am grateful that I get to spend time in different places, with different people - whether that means being a pastor who gets invited to do poetry gigs at venues that look pretty different from most churches, or recognising that every chance I get to speak upfront on a stage is balanced with the ‘backstage’ places where I have to dig my fingers into the clay and do things that are less glamorous. A couple of weeks ago I took a crew down to a festival, where I got to perform on the main stage for 15 minutes, but spent the majority of the 4 days behind a coffee machine in the mud. I loved it. I think this is what life in balance looks like sometimes. I know there are lessons to learn from every context I am in. But I need to stop and create space to see those lessons, otherwise I risk crashing my way through these gardens and just trampling all the flowers.
I wonder how my boy will struggle with balance growing up. I think about the battles with technology addiction that I have and wonder how this struggle will unfold for him. In my lifetime there was a clear shift when the internet moved into people’s homes, and mobile phones went from being a business luxury to an everyday accessory in every person’s pocket. If I tallied up the time I’ve spent over the years on MySpace, MSN messenger, Facebook, Temple Run, Angry Birds and all the random digital spaces in between - I think the total hours I’ve clocked would scare me. My views of technology are not at all doom and gloom. I love and appreciate the ability to Skype my parents in a different city; I appreciate the immersive and creative storytelling of a great video game; and I love to read the perspectives and views of people who have lived completely different lives to mine, accessible via the internet. But the problem is saturation without space. Knowledge without wisdom. Content without discernment. These are all symptoms of Koyaanisqatsi.
So, I am lead again to the beauty of the disciplines. Prying open space for reflection. Uninterrupted moments. Stillness where God comes and sits on the rug with me, tastes the food with me, prompts me about where my life needs rebalancing. Things I need to confess, repent from, revisit. Things I need to let go of, leave behind, move on from. The internal work of renewal that can only truly be done by handing over control, to the one who actually had it all along.
And I’m reminded once again, that the more time I’ve spent being a father, the more I see myself as a son. The world is a big playground, and I need the time I spend at my Father’s feet, the moments I am reminded that life out of balance seems to be a problem adults struggle with more than children. So as I watch the way Noah makes his way through a day, and try to be a physically and emotionally available Dad, I realise maybe one step on that path is to be a physically and emotionally available child.