Tag Archives: rhythm

Running in Circles

Heritage-High-School-Wake-Forest-Latex-Track-New-Construction-2A recent morning run triggered memories of high school track meets in the 1980s.  I ran the distance races for the mighty Falcons, and we barely had time to get off the bus in those days before the 3200 meters race began.  Nothing like racing eight laps around the track to get your afternoon going.

Our first meets of the season often took place in a tiny town called Corning, Arkansas, whose population sign answered, Yes, please.  (Just kidding, more like three thousand.)  Corning’s track sat in the middle of, well, nothing but empty space that provided no break from the strong March winds that seemed to be ever-present.

So it was always cold on those eight laps around the track.  Coach Watson insisted that we remove our sweats and wear only our track uniform when we raced despite the weather conditions.  Our uniform consisted of tiny maroon shorts that as best I recall were made out of cheap construction paper and a white mesh tank top with a maroon stripe.  We provided our own goosebumps.

I remember Corning in particular and those killer eight laps because a quarter of the time was spent running directly into that terrible wind.  Another quarter involved flying down the track with the wind at our back unable to breathe because all available oxygen had been snatched from our desperate gasps.  The corners in between were the best shot of relief, although there the wind tended to blow you into the lanes you had not intended to run in.

So it was a good memory.

Well, it was good in the sense that it occurred to me that those races are pretty indicative of life in general.  There are times when the wind is so at your back that you can hardly breathe.  There are others when the wind is so in your face that you can hardly move.  And there are still others when the wind blows you off course despite your best efforts.  Life leaves you longing for some gentle rhythm yet wondering if you are accomplishing anything beyond running in circles.

My best advice is to move to Southern California where the weather is far more hospitable for running.  But that doesn’t speak to the reality of life.  For that, all I have learned is that you can expect all of the above and more.  And that bracing for each shift in the winds is preferable to being surprised at each turn.

 

Advertisements

Just Stop

94e502a4dd7fa63ab887bc0660d35988

The classic Christian hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, contains the line, Drop Thy still dews of quietness / Till all our strivings cease.  That last part just sounds terrible.  You see, I’m a striver.  Striving’s my thing.  I like accomplishment.  Give me a problem to solve, yours or mine, and I will strive all day and night to solve it.  One of my latest projects is striving to learn how to take a break from striving, which it turns out is just as complicated as it sounds.

Last week Pepperdine hosted theologian, Miroslav Volf, who in his final lecture extolled the Jewish practice of Sabbath as a weekly event where one stops striving.  I have long agreed with that concept but am just terrible at it.  Since my new preaching gig sees Sunday as work day, I approach Friday-Saturday as weekend and Friday in particular as a personal sabbath.  Well, that’s the idea at least.  It hasn’t gone well so far.

For starters, I don’t want to stop striving for a day.  I prefer catching up on unfinished striving and go a little bonkers ignoring things that need attention when I actually have time set aside to do them!  But even when I try, presumably non-striving activities morph into things to accomplish.  A nature walk becomes the quest of the perfect picture or story.  A novel becomes a mission that needs to be completed in a certain time frame.  A sport becomes a personal competition.

I am more than a little nutty.  How exactly do I not strive?  I could say that I will work on it, but that is exactly the problem.

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that 19th century poem-turned-hymn that imagined the cessation of strivings.  Ironically, he hated the very idea of singing in church and wrote the poem to promote silent meditation in contrast to musical worship, but his poem became a tool of the thing he despised.  Life is funny.  He was also an abolitionist, who in his lifetime saw the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing the practice of slavery in the United States.  So he was a striver, too! 

Well, obviously striving and Sabbath are teammates, not opponents.

Breaks are important for any endeavor, which obviously includes life itself.  This may not come naturally to me, but the secret just may be when it no longer feels like something to accomplish.  Stopping is the opposite of accomplishment.  It is a gift.

Recurring Fluctuation

Rhythm: (noun) [ri-thəm] 3a: movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.¹

You say routine, and I hear same. That’s boring. You say rhythm, and I hear flow. That’s magic. Routine is my middle name (or possibly Andrew), but I want to live with rhythm.

The end of the calendar year brings a holiday break to most people, and it arrived yesterday with much rejoicing for the students in my world. I like the rhythm of the academic calendar, the dependable circuit of fresh beginnings building toward grand crescendos and coveted breaks. Nothing lasts long enough for monotony to set in, but the variety is familiar. It is rhythm, that lovely idea with the oxymoronic definition of recurring fluctuation.

Our particular culture may be rhythm-impaired.

The American notion of work is hard to identify. From one angle it looks all workaholic with a capitalism-infused insatiable desire for more and a technological revolution that never really allows us to go home or on vacation, but from another it looks a little like laziness expecting two full days off a week and only eight hours of work the other days carefully divided by breaks and lunch hours and creative approaches to what counts as being on the clock (not to mention vacations, sick days, and other assorted flavors of leave).

So which is it? Do we work like crazy fifty weeks of the year and then take two weeks to run like crazy on vacation and never really rest? Or, do we never really get around to work?

Can it be both? I answer both because I think we lack rhythm.

The planner in me says that rhythm demands excellent time management skills, and it does, but the rhythmic life demands the creative side of the brain, too. Do not settle for a bland, routinized life. Do not settle for a rudderless, pinball life either.

Seek a life with beautiful recurring fluctuation, and then—and only then—go with the flow.

——————————————————————————————-

¹ Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.