Why Is Balance So Difficult?
I’m up to my armpits in deadlines this week, folks.
I did it to myself. I procrastinated. I slept in. You know how it happens.
It’s gotten me thinking a lot about the entropy that all of us face when it comes to anything good in our lives. The gravity of the world is from order to disorder. Weeds ruin gardens. Rows of crops merge. Skills, unpracticed, become more and more difficult. Diets wane. And we find ourselves dealing with root-filled, unplowed ground like we’re learning something for the first time again.
This is what it feels like this week as I try to catch up on a writing project that’s gotten way behind. (It’s a curriculum project I’m developing for The Gospel Coalition… more on that in another Roadstead.) It’s like trying to start running again after a long time off, which I am also doing.
Needless to say, the roadstead is going to be a bit shorter this week.
I’ve been asking myself why I fall out of the routines that are both necessary and life-giving. For Pete’s sake, I wrote a whole chapter on ordering your life in Recapturing the Wonder. I’ve come to believe it’s because of our tendency to fail to see the forest for the trees. As Joan Chittester writes:
“The spiritual life, in other words, is not achieved by denying one part of life for the sake of another. The spiritual life is achieved only by listening to all of life and learning to respond to each of its dimensions wholly and with integrity.”
Replace the word “spiritual” with “flourishing” or “thriving.” (In a Christian worldview, a flourishing life is a spiritual life, so I think it translates.) We flourish only by listening to all of life. What often happens is we experience something that takes our gaze away from “all of life” and we find ourselves fixated on one aspect. That lack of perspective leads to imbalance, and imbalance leads to disorder, and the next thing you know, you have four days to write 12,000 words. Disorder leads to more disorder because you now have to deprive yourself of sleep to finish your work, and you know that the crash on the other side of this writing deadline, when the work is finally done, is going to be a hard one.
Some of this, I think, is just how life goes. No one walks a perfect balance at all times, though I think we can get better at it over time. Deep down, I know that my best work – and all of our best work – comes when we work from a place of rest. Hopefully, this is a lesson I can learn in a moment like this, not giving in to procrastination when the next project or the next deadline comes around.
We’ll see, I guess.
It’s the anniversary of 9/11. Each year, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s Press Secretary at the time, live-tweets events of the day as they happened. You can follow them here.
You can also listen to my interview with Alberto Gonzales, who served as Bush’s White House Counsel. He recounts 9/11 and the aftermath in our conversation.
On a related note, I recently revisited Lawrence Wright’s book, The Looming Tower. This Pulitzer-prize winning book traces the road to 9/11, starting in prisons in Egypt where modern Islamic extremism was born. It’s a fascinating, page-turning, and heartbreaking book, particularly for the story of John O’Neill, the FBI agent who, more than anyone else, saw the signs that 9/11 was coming.
Jason Stanley, a philosopher from Yale, has a disturbing op-ed in the New York Times about how Germany is (and isn’t) reckoning with its Nazi past. It’s unsettling when we think about the role white supremacy plays in the West. Most folks think Germany has dealt well with the sins of World War II and Nazism, but as Stanley reveals, that might not be the case. Stanley writes:
"In the United States, it has seemed useful to hold Germany up as a positive example: If Germany can face its past this quickly and effectively then we should surely swallow hard and face our own, and America will soon be rid of white supremacy. But the ease of overcoming a difficult past is itself a pernicious myth. The struggle to maintain a liberal democratic culture while living with fearsome ghosts is, in fact, never-ending. And even if the myth of a successful moment of German reckoning had been expedient, it would still be politically problematic to exploit it. Doing so, as we now see, has fed the German fascist flame. The leaders of AfD heavily exploit the narrative, as part of their mournful cry that Germans have been unfairly victimized by guilt. But who can really decide when a reckoning is complete?"
You can read the whole thing here.
Finally, with the kickoff of the new NFL season, I was reminded of David Prince’s great book In the Arena. It’s the only book I know of that looks at the world of sports from a Christian worldview. If you can forgive David’s love of Alabama, you’ll love the book. You can learn more about it here.
On the Colts in particular (yes, I really am going to do this during the NFL season): It was a rough Sunday, in the end. The Bengals overcame a big halftime deficit to beat the Colts. But the jury is still out on where they stand. Luck proved that he is, indeed, back, throwing for over three-hundred yards to at least 7 receivers, by my count. The Colts also started quite a few rookies. And it may also be true that the Bengals are especially good this year. Here’s hoping for the latter. Regardless, the Colts need to step up their run defense, and their offensive line needs to give Luck more time. And if you go back in time, this is exactly the same thing Colts’ fans have been saying for years. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic, and I was very glad to see Luck and TY Hilton connecting again. More soon.
See you next week.