In the past few years various studies have concluded that multi-tasking is actually inefficient. It seems when we try to concentrate on many things, we end up losing focus on the most important things.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been able to multitask so the studies really didn’t interest me until I returned from a trip to India a few weeks ago. During my 21 hours of flight coming home to L.A., I had time to ponder why the simplicity of life in the poorer areas I visited offered something quite attractive. The people I met had very few of the things we have. Their lives are much simpler, much more barren in fact. And yet, they seem to have more of the things we so often find missing in our lives.
More and more I hear my people here in SoCal wish they had more time for family, for reading books, taking walks, and enjoying the out-of-doors. More frequently I hear those around me wish they had time to sleep late, enjoy a lazy day at the beach, or just have a day or two without any appointments or obligations. And sometimes I wonder if the lives we live and the things we do, in order to have the labels we wear and the stuff we own, are actually sucking the life right out of us. Maybe more isn’t better. Maybe, like multi-tasking, we are so busy doing so much, and trying to enjoy so many good things, that we are left with no time for the best things, the things that actually breathe life into our souls.
More often than I like to admit I find myself on the couch watching a Hallmark movie on my day off. Yep, it’s true, and yes, my lovely wife smirks at me. So, as a bit of an expert on Hallmark plot lines, I can tell you that a large percentage of them seem designed to carry a not-so-subtle message.
It often goes like this: Boy and girl are friends as youths in a small town where everyone knows each other, traditions are sacred, and community life and friendships thrive in a kind of sanctified simplicity. Girl goes off to college, and lands a high-profile job in the big city while the boy stays home and becomes a good friend to all, and a hardworking, honest, good man. Girl returns to her small-town home to complete some project and eschews the small-town ways at first. But, gradually, love of the simple life, and the boy, bring her to her senses and she realizes that her soul has always longed for the life and love found in the simple but life-giving ways of her home town.
Yes, this kind of storyline is too sweet and predictable for most, but maybe there’s more to it. Maybe Hallmark has discovered that inside us, down deep in places we don’t admit, we yearn for the simple life of love, friendship, purpose and meaning, and time to enjoy them.
So, back to India. The lives of most people there are very simple. They have very few of the things we consider essential to our well-being. Yet, almost without exception, those I spent time with love their lives. They live with or near their extended family, have many hours each night for walking, talking, and sharing life, and have no trouble keeping their lives focused on the things that matter most.
What’s my point? Just this. Maybe it is time to take inventory of your life. Spend some time reflecting on what truly makes your life worthwhile, what breathes hope and stability and joy into you. Then, look at the way you spend your hours, your days, your energy. And if you find you are spending too much time maintaining all the stuff of your life rather than living it, do something about it. Figure out your life priorities and then cut out and clear out everything that is keeping you from maximizing them.
The ethical life is also the focused life. Our ethics are simply the convictions we hold regarding what is good or evil, worst or best. The ethical life is one where our convictions and our actions are aligned, and nowhere is this more important than in the way we spend the currency of our lives to live out the priorities of our hearts.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.