Being part of this Everyday Abbey conversation around Time helps me to continually wrestle with the question of time – how is my life best ordered around rhythms that help me step off the treadmill of seemingly endless demands into a different order of life? Over the last month or so, by making time for a daily Examen, I’m more and more aware of how much the vaunted “social media” values reward rapidity, the ability to perform fast and move on to the next thing (thank goodness for the “like” button, the Tweet, or Google’s new system of giving us “replies” that “save” time a we don’t have to think about what we want to say to someone else – what a time saving gift!). I wrestle with this digital “intelligence” where I have to be relevant, in-the-moment and regularly posting or I might become irrelevant or, worse still, disappear. I fear that unless I’m productive, I’m useless and that’s the worst sin of this digital age.
But here’s the rub: the cultivation of a well-lived life, of a community of people just takes a lot of time. It’s the work of a lot of non-productive time. By the calculus of the digital world such work is useless because it doesn’t deliver instant, or at least quick, results. As the German social theorists Byung-Chul Han puts it: “Whatever is long, anything that lasts a long time, proves incompatible” with a digital culture that demands results and rapidity (Pyschopolitics: Neoliberalism and the New Technologies of Power, 49).
Part of the Everyday Abbey is about cultivating spaces for those long conversations and journeys about how to thrive as Christians in spaces that continually commodify and objectify us as cogs in a great production machine. I have returned to the Ignatian practice of the Examen that invites me to stop each day and dwell in the voices and places of the local. I’m finding other helpful ways to re-enter this place where time is not about quick results but a ferment. It is about “takes time”. What a wonderful image – ‘taking time’ – deliberately choosing the slow, the long, that which, seemingly, doesn’t ‘produce’ and can’t have a metric. I find that walking (without headphones) is a great gift in this taking time. Walking places gives time back even while, at the beginning, it feels like wasting time that is taken from getting important things done. In this taking time I am gradually entering a different rhythm of daily life. In this other rhythm (walking, leaving the phone off, going without ear pods, doing the Examen) questions come that could never appear in the Twitter-sphere or racing through FB. Another world starts to bubble up that had practically been forgotten.