“Our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness,” he will rest satisfied.” –Richard Foster
Okay, so when I was at CIY, to demonstrate solidarity with the high schoolers, I committed to fasting from DVDs for one week. Now to many of you, this may not seem like a big deal. To me, it actually was. I realized that since my frenetic college days of waking up at 8a.m. and staying up until 3.a.m. to finish a paper, talk on AIM, update my facebook, practice on the piano, talk on the cell, talk with the roommates etc. have long been over. I have officially joined the 9-5-in-a-cubicle sector of humanity, and after my daily (semi-daily?) run and dinnertime, I find myself too tired or unmotivated to either a) spend time with people or b) participate in some solitary creative or edifying activity (i.e. reading or learning a new Chopin piece).
So what do I do? I watch DVDs. Now this may be in the form of Office episodes on DVD, the occasional Jack Bauer fix or just a plain old movie. Why, you may ask? Probably because I suffer from one of the debilitating plagues of our generation: the need to be entertained. Recently, I have been reading a lot lately actually, but the default activity remains thus: popping in a DVD.
So I was actually quite serious when I said I realized I just wanted to give that up DVDs for a week. So I did, however microscopic of a sacrifice it may be. I celebrated the breaking of the fast by watching the Bourne Identity with my mom and sister. My mom is in the Jason Bourne kick, having just watched the Bourne Ultimatum last weekend. I don’t remember anything about the Bourne Supremacy, because I just remember getting sick when I watched in the theater (I think my Michael Bay-induced nausea crosses over to Bourne movies as well); however, let it be known, that in my own long history of 24 loyalty, I am at a loss to determine who would come out on top in a fight to the death: Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne.
But reflecting on my use of time during the past week, I realized that I really did enjoy not relying on DVDs to fill that those two hours before I head to bed. I spent more time listening and reflecting and reading. I even had time to work on some songwriting material (shock of the year!). At first I was uncomfortable without people, noise, or activity to fill the silence. It made me realize how blatantly fast-paced and noisy our culture is. Even at CIY, there is constant activity and music and interaction and images. We are constantly taking in information, entertainment, visual stimuli, but how much of it actually transforms our character? How much of it is absolute nonsense that simply needs to be stripped away for simplicity’s sake?
Especially after having traveled to Africa three times, and seeing how stripped down and bare and beautiful a lot of day-to-day living is, I am often aggravated how easily I can slip back into my American mindset and not allow those cross-cultural experiences to affect my attitude toward consumption and materialism. I often lack the discipline and selflessness to live simply.
I do not want this entry to be another rant against the lamentable state of American culture and my subsequent capitulation to it…But there is truly something to be said for living simply.
I love what Richard Foster says about simplicity: “Simplicity, then, is getting in touch with the divine center.” Simplicity is not supposed to be an end in and of itself—one of the downfalls of asceticism.
Instead, simplicity is the means by which we engage with God. It is the stripping away of all that is unnecessary so we can be receptive to Him. It’s placing ourselves in an economic, social, spiritual—and even physical—posture where can best reflect who He is—never hurried, always listening, gracious, generous, at ease in solitude, and fully engaged in relationships.