Author Brant Hansen says, “In this culture, if you live a restful life, you’ll freak people out.” He says that his neighbours must look at him oddly when they see him, as a dad, out catching lizards with his kids, talking with others about ducks, and “wasting time” wandering through the neighbourhood. He starting to try and do more of ‘nothing’ when he and his wife chose to live restfully in their neighbourhood. He wanted to do more than just see his neighbours at the mail box, he actually wanted to live and have a life in his neighbourhood. Life, for Hansen, doesn’t happen at break-neck speed before collapsing at home exhausted, it happens when we become restful in our neighbourhoods.
Today in Chestermere and in our culture broadly we have a hard time doing ‘nothing.’ We rush to this or that, making up for lost time after Covid-19 forced us to stop. We rush because we want the good life, so that one day we might have enough to slow down and finally enjoy some rest. But for now, it’s a go-go.
Often in our faith we rush, too. We step over times of prayer, step around those in need, we don’t have time to have people around our table, no space to worship in community (or alone) and we have not made new friends, or cared for the friends we have, in years. The rush, instead of liberating us to grow deeper, constricts us. We hope for the good life, but find that those moments that make our life good, are missing.
Abraham Heschel wrote perhaps most deeply about Sabbath. Sabbath is the ancient practice of stopping completely for a day a week just to do nothing. Heschel says, “There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.” Stopping helps us re-order our priorities, and by stopping we can see through the fog of our own busy-ness to see our stuff and others in a clear light once again.
We do not live to rest, it is out of rest that we live. Heschel says, “The Sabbath is the inspirer, the other days the inspired.” When we learn to stop and do nothing, we prepare to take on all that is before us, but we do so with a newfound hope and vision for what can be. We are not working to create a frenetic and maddening world that consumes us in the process, we are working to nurture a beautiful hope and a future, one where we get to live fully alive, too. Taking time to look for bugs with your kids is not wasted time, it is the very stuff of life itself.
Our neighbourhoods are places where we can rest, stop, and do nothing. It is there, in this beautiful gift of space and time, that we come alive again to see that before us we’ve been given everything. I hope your summer is a gift to you and those around you as you spend time doing nothing together.