“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.” Peter Drucker
If we are trying to move from a unholy muddle and mess in our lives to a place of simplicity and order, then there are various things that we need to do. If we want to focus on what is essential for our lives, then we need to go through a process to (1) evaluate and explore; (2) eliminate; and (3) execute our decision. Whenever we are faced with a choice we need to answer three basic questions: what? why? and when?
A problem is that we so often answer these questions in the wrong way. If we say what? and answer everything; if we say why? and say because it is popular; and if we say when do we want it? and answer now – then the only result to our decision-making process is frustration and stress. If however we answer these same three questions with the focus that Moses offers in our first reading (Exodus 17) when he continued to pray and intercede for Joshua as he fought against the Amalekites, or that Jesus invites us to have in our prayers before God – then we will ask different questions. Rather than saying everything to the question of what, we will begin to identify the right thing; rather than saying ‘because it is popular’ to the question of why, but saying, ‘because it is the right reason’; and saying ‘when it is the right time” rather than saying ‘now’ to the question of when – we will discover that sweet spot which offers our highest point of contribution. One of the great problems that we meet in this is that pursuing less takes discipline – something that we are not very good at as a society! This is why fitness levels are falling and obesity levels are rising – because it takes discipline to say no to more time on the couch and no to a second serve of desert. But we need to evaluate by asking the right questions – things like “What do I feel deeply inspired by?” or “What really frustrates / angers / annoys me in the world?”; “What am I particularly talented at?”; “What meets a significant need in the world?” – it is only when we take the time to really consider questions like these that we can move beyond the trivial many things to find the vital few things that are worth giving our whole lives to. Only then will we live the truth that “Less is more” and that “Stress is bad”.
As a challenge for this week, let us all take a positive step towards de-cluttering our lives by finding 50 things that we can give away or get rid of – or choices that we can begin to make that will lead us towards that more positive future.
Recorded at St Paul’s (13 mins)
Sunday 29, Year C. Luke 18:1-8.