Take time to be holy: Why productivity for productivity’s sake doesn’t work

I have been fascinated by the idea of liturgy, which I understand as seeking to make time itself holy. Liturgy isn’t a word often encountered in LDS culture, be we have our own version if you use the definition. However, I wanted to use it in a more personal sense. I often notice that hours can go at work with myself feeling restless or lazy, feeling that I haven’t accomplished much. I believe part of this is the attempt, not to make time holy, but to make it productive– productivity to me becomes a form of idol worship.

I read this scripture in Proverbs, that I believe captures the solution:

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not be be compared to her…

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. (Proverbs 3)

The idea here to me is that if you seek to give the Lord your best, then your temporal matters will also naturally be tended to. Not on their own; I don’t view the holy as a “distraction” from the work I need to get done; but rather, a natural consequence of having your focus in the correct place. If you are divinely centered, then everything else will work out. If I approach work seeking to make my time holy, then deadlines and the thoughts of my peers and mentors and numbers will cease to be the driving force.

In addition, part of this is seeking to divulge myself of unrighteous impulses– to act and not be be acted upon. I read this quote on sleep in Gilead that struck me as too true:

The physical body can crave sleep with an animal greed, as everybody knows. Then it is snappish when it is disturbed, as I would have been if I hadn’t had the memory, at least, of praying for tranquillity. At that moment I cannot claim to have had tranquillity itself.

I too have moments where sleep dictates my mood and actions. I had to leave work a little early on Monday, because I couldn’t focus. I try to have tools and actions that help control some of these problems. For instance, if I do a ten-minute yoga routine in the morning, I feel strengthened, and sleep is no longer such a dictator of my mood. If I am always seeking to write down impressions and writing a blog, boredom ceases to be a problem, and I don’t endlessly check my phone for updates. Worrying about productivity at work doesn’t bother me if I keep a running record in a physical notebook throughout the day.

This all reminds me of a wise quote from Chesterton, his distinction between the boring and the bored:

When Byron divided humanity into the bores and the bored, he omitted to notice that the higher qualities exist entirely in the bores, the lower qualities in the bored, among whom he counted himself. The bore, by his starry enthusiasm, his solemn happiness, may, in some sense, have proved himself poetical. The bored has certainly proved himself prosiac…

We might, no doubt, find it a nuisance to count all the blades of grass or all the leaves of the trees; but this would not be because of our boldness or gaiety, but because of our lack of boldness and gaiety. The bore would go onward, bold and gay, and find the blades of grass as splendid as the swords of an army. The bore is stronger and more joyous than we are; he is a demigod– nay, he is a god. For it is the gods who do not tire of the iteration of things; to them the nightfall is always new, and the last rose as red as the first.

Chesterton

 

This is how I seek to be, and I believe it can only be done by seeking to make whatever you are doing into something holy. Otherwise it is all for naught, and you eventually become one of the bored, wondering when the task ahead will end.

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