Book Club Channel
Choosing What Matters: An Interview with Arthur Boers
At some point along the 500-mile Bruce Trail in Canada, Arthur Boers, then a protestant pastor and self-confessed "workaholic," was converted. "The act of hiking was knitting me together, making me whole," he says. This epiphany of sorts was just the beginning of a new way of thinking about his own busy life, as well as the lives of the people he pastored.
Drawing on philosopher and mentor Albert Borgmann's ideas about "focal practices," and especially how technology can distract us from the communal practices people used to do together, Boers began to consider what it would mean to live a "good life." His new book, Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions, is the result of his experience.
Boers is now an associate professor at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, and the author of six books, including The Way is Made by Walking. Recently, Boers took some time to talk with us about his newest book, the conversations he hopes it inspires, and the focal practices that are most important to him.
(For more conversation and resources from Living Into Focus, visit the Patheos Book Club here.)
First of all, thank you for writing this book. It was a balm to my soul. I know why I need this book, but why do you think the rest of us need this book?
So many of us these days have a deep sense that our lives are off balance, off center. The Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn has a lyric that says: "I've never lived with balance, though I've always liked the notion." That defines me too, I'm afraid, but I don't think that I'm the only one.
When I was a pastor, congregants kept complaining about how busy they were. They asked church leaders to help them think through these issues so that they could live differently. The church leaders—we called them elders—agreed that this was a vital matter, a spiritual issue, and also agreed to help. But it took them over two years to respond because they themselves were so busy and over-extended. So I saw that this is a basic church issue, a pastoral concern.
When I walked a popular 500-mile pilgrimage route in Spain a few years ago, most of the people I met and spoke to told me that they were not "religious." Yet many of them wanted to talk about the quality and pace of their lives. They had concerns that something was awry. They wanted help with knowing how to live differently. So, I saw that this is a also an evangelistic issue, in the best sense of that term—that is, whether we have good news to give people. People want to know how to live a better life, the good life, the abundant life.
Who did you write this book for? Who is your ideal reader?
This book is for anyone that has a niggling sense that there must be a better way, that something crucial is missing. For anyone who has noticed that they are spending more time than ever on work and less time than before on family or friends, volunteering or enjoying the outdoors. The quality and pace of life has changed dramatically in recent decades and there are ways of understanding what has happened. We are busier, much busier. And when we can put our finger on these realities—for example the fact that more often than not so-called "labor saving devices" make more work for us—then we can figure out together how to live more satisfying lives.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team in 2009, after more than ten years of managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music/theatre programs for children, and a music minister.