This resolution comes straight from George MacDonald, via his novel Robert Falconer. It expressed the “divine law of [Falconer’s] activity,” and I wish to make it my own.
The phrase spreads before me a vision of quiet, effective work punctuated by seasons of true rest, the antithesis of modern society’s frantic—and often ineffectual—labor, and equally frantic striving after (unrestful) recreation.
Another author who captured this vision was J.R.R. Tolkien, in his short story, Leaf by Niggle. At one point in the story, the protagonist is in a purgatory of sorts, and I love this description of what happens in him:
It could not be denied that he began to have a feeling of—well, satisfaction: bread rather than jam. He could take up a task the moment one bell rang, and lay it aside promptly the moment the next one went, all tidy and ready to be continued at the right time. He got through quite a lot in a day, now; he finished small things off neatly. He had no "time of his own" (except alone in his bed-cell), and yet he was becoming master of his time; he began to know just what he could do with it. There was no sense of rush. He was quieter inside now, and at resting-time he could really rest.
It was from Shinichi Suzuki that I first heard, “Never rush, never rest,” which captures a similar idea, but one not as good, for rest is essential. “The Sabbath was made for man.”
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz (The Power of Full Engagement) studied top-notch tennis players to determine what separated the great from the greatest. The players were equally skilled at the techniques of the game; the crucial difference appeared in how they used the brief moments when they were not actively playing. The really great players had learned how to rest between points.
Into Great Silence, a film about the Carthusian monks, gives yet another glimpse of what I seek in this, my final resolution for 2010. Two monks are cutting wood into fireplace-sized lengths for heating. The young novice quickly breaks into a sweat, and wears himself out with his energetic motions, while the old man calmly, deliberately, and slowly outpaces him in production without looking in the least bit tired.
Focussed, unhurried work; effective rest. A good aspiration for Advent, the Season of Preparation, though perhaps a most difficult one during the secular Christmas season, which neatly epitomizes its opposite.
This year I've had more fun than ever before with my "New Year's" resolutions. I'll probably find more next year, but on a less regular basis, as once a month is obviously a faster pace than I can put them into practice. What I hope to do with this year's resolutions, as each reaches its one-year anniversary, is take time for analysis: how I've done, whether or not I still think the resolution is valuable, and how I might make it more measurable (and thus more likely to be accomplished).
#1 Read More Books In November I surpassed my most ambitious goal for the year, that of five books per month, wtih a total of 61.
#2 Rediscover Feasting Thanksgiving at my sister's house is one long string of amazing feast days. I'm still not good enough at saving the feast for special days to receive such times with the kind of joy and abandon that hungrier people do, however.
#3 Learn to Relax I've been more regular (though still not good enough) at taking time each day for deliberate, focussed relaxation. I also found our two activity-charged weeks away from home much less stressful than usual. I'm not sure why, but I take it as a good sign. (I don't mean that being with our wonderful family is in itself stressful, but I tend to stress out easily when there's a lot going on and a lot that needs to be done.)
#4 Like More Things Hmm. What to say here? I think I already liked everything I did this month, except missing my flight connection on the trip home after Thanksgiving.
#5 Pay Attention I continue to work on keeping my mind focussed on the "now" of whatever I am doing. When I remember. What was I writing about?
#7 Talk Less, Listen More Spending two weeks with lots of other people gave me more opportunity to practice this, and if I wasn't all that successful, I at least remembered this resolution on occasion.
#8 Enjoy Spontaneity Not much to say here, but again, being away from home does tend to force me into some spontaneity, and I did enjoy it. :)
#9 End with the Beginning in Mind Nothing I can think of to report this month.
#10 Care More about Other People—and Less about What They Think It's not easy to do, but there have been several occasions when I have made this a deliberate choice.
#11 Practice Thanksgiving I had a lot to be thankful for this month—including a safe, if long, trip home—but to be honest I was no more thankful because of the resolution than without it.