I get caught up in the melodies of life. The rhythm often escapes me. In other words, I lose track of the timing. Life is lived as one long series of notes that repeat. But the beat is hard to find. Strangely enough I thought being a member of the clergy would help my find an appropriate rhythm to my life. But it does not happen often. It is as though someone claps at the wrong time and is not consistent in that either. I am easily thrown off. Some people claim they, “only work, eat, and sleep.” There are times I wish I could have that “only.” Someone may ask, “Wouldn’t you get bored?” I reply, “I don’t know. Let’s give it a try.” But I know that is not going to happen. So, the test of boredom will not be taken.
Rhythm And Retreat
What happens when a person’s heart begins beating out of rhythm? There is an attempt to “shock it” back into rhythm. Spiritually speaking, many of us feel like our hearts being shocked to stay off the proper beat. Spiritual retreats are offered as means of ending the constant stimulation. They are nice respites. But we go back into the world of the everyday. Some people think of spiritual retreats as ‘real church” because they find in them the break the churches they attend weekly do not offer. Why is this?
Church is not a priority for most people. Popular entertainment often makes devout people villains or insane. Granted this trope is very dramatic. But it also illustrates how strange it seems in our culture to find someone who decides to be different. They are outside the middle class mainstream. People do not understand why a person seeks to live as someone seeking something other than what society says they should want. The question the rest of society could ask is why they should choose this way? But the question I hear being asked is, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get board?”
The Fear of Boredom
Modern people fear being bored. Avoiding that temporary state of being requires either stimulation or medication. Constant stimulation is the desire of many people. Entertainment is the solution many people use to avoid the “work, eat, sleep” cycle. I find it hard to eat alone without reading something or watching something on a large screen television in a restaurant. Some people speak of “mindful eating,” while I try to mindlessly consume food. Self-medication is another tool to avoid feeling bored. Again, we attempt to keep the mind from being engaged in the present moment. A popular meme holds that we are often bored and not hungry. Eating then is a way to be occupied.
Church is not a priority for many people because of this fear. Someone may respond, “There are many other things going on.” Yes. There are sports events and a few other activities so that people can fill up the time in other ways. Churches try to be more entertaining for that purpose. “Our church is not the same boring stuff.” We are tempted to leave out prayer, meditative times during sacraments, and make sure we are considered lively and not boring.
Rhythm and Noise
Living only in melody is noisy without anything to hold the song together. Introducing rhythm is helpful to keep down the noise. Many children in our church love rhythms. They do not necessarily realize it. One junior high school boy is constantly dribbling his basket ball. It is the rhythm by which he walks, speaks, and thinks. A very small child will start matching his steps to the rhythm of the music during rehearsals. It is not the sound in their ears. It is the reverberation in their bodies that directs their movements.
I look for this quality. But I do not find it in what I am doing or what is going on around me. Recently, I try to find the rhythms of the psalter as I read. I can easily read the words. But I am looking to hear the music within the words. The words of prophets are easier if I stop and look for the rhythm of the words rather than simply the “plain meaning.” Doing this requires me to stop the noise in my head. What point will I need to make here? What is the underlying topic or theme? And what is the meaning of this word in the original? These questions are as much a part of the general noise that surrounds me that I disdain. And yet, I am trained to ask them at the beginning of my reading.
Cycles of Worship
The cycles of worship should give us a rhythm of prayer. But we take from it a cycle of preparation and execution of programming. We are not meant to do this as church. Let’s exchange these cycles for rhythms.