Now that I am retired and have time to think and recently I find myself thinking about the importance of balance, and well, the importance of rest and play. When I was working, success at work was my primary goal for a good long while. Then my partner caught cancer, and doing my best to take care of her was not just my primary goal, it was my only goal. Now I find myself thinking about balance: work and play, self and others, doing and being.
As if to remind me of the importance of balance between work and play, I came across this story in Joan Chittister’s book “Wisdom Distilled from the Daily.”
One day a traveler in the desert came across good Sister Scholastica who was relaxing and enjoying herself with the other sisters. The traveler was shocked, and taunted the sisters saying, “What kind of monastics were they to be out playing like that?!?”
Sister Scholastica asked the traveler if he had a bow and arrow. And the fellow allowed as how he did. The good sister then asked him to shoot an arrow off toward the far distant horizon. He did. And she said, now shoot another. He did. And Sister Scholastica said, “Shoot your bow again. Keep shooting; keep shooting; keep shooting!” Finally the traveler said, “But if I bend my bow so much I will break it.”
And Sister Scholastica said to him, “It is just the same with the work of holiness and with the work for justice. If we stretch ourselves beyond measure, we will break. Sometimes it is necessary to take the time to meet our other needs as well.”
When the traveler heard those words, he was saw their wisdom and repented of his rebuke to Sister Scholastica. And the other sisters were strengthened in their sense of community.
Further in the book, Chittister notes that Talmud Scholars have commented on the importance of rest. When we rest from our work, we create a time and space to evaluate where we have been, how far we have come, and the quality of what we have done. When we rest we open time and space to contemplate the meaning of life, and the meaning of our own life as we have chosen to live it.
So, yes the work that you are doing IS important. AND it is important to remember that if you overwork a bow it will break, if you overwork yourself, you too will break. So, take a deep breath and go out and play for a while! After all it is summer time and the living should be easy.