Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Vacation

Remember when the last day of school signalled the beginning of summer?  The days stretched out ahead of us, seemingly endless.  Freed from the routine of books and classes and homework and clubs and chores, the  sun-soaked days of summer beckoned us to unstructured play.  We'd lie on our backs and watch the clouds, black thunderheads racing across a lowering sky, or wisps of white drifting like thistledown.  When we got tired of clouds, we could roll over and study the amazing, hidden world that lives at the bottom of the grass.  So many bugs!

   We could spend a whole morning crawling through long grass, stalking "the enemy" while keeping our heads low.  Then we'd spend the afternoon hiding among the cornstalks and declaring loudly that we weren't dead because the slender cornstalk had stopped the bullet, or arrow, or laser beam or cannonball, depending on where our imaginations had taken us that day.
   The days were long, beginning in dew-wet grass and ending with a long twilight when the fireflies danced and June bugs batted against the screens.    A summer idyll, or idle.

    It turns out idleness is not just for kids.

  Forbes Magazine recently published an interview with  Andrew Smart, author of Autopilot: The Art & Science of Doing Nothing, in which he explains that all that multi-tasking,  so popular with modern CEO's, is actually detrimental to our mental health.   Those who study these kinds of things tell us that brain activity is measured by blood flow to the brain and the amount of oxygen the blood carries.  Scientists have learned that when the brain is engaged in a specific task, like solving a math problem, activity in certain brain regions is suppressed.  They have also found that those same regions, become super active when not focussed on a specific task.  Conclusion?  An idle brain is healthier, happier and more creative than its multi-tasking counterpart.

    I think that openness to creativity, to flashes of brilliance and unexpected insight, means we're more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We've all been taught since childhood that "an idle mind is the devil's workshop," but what if the idle mind is tuned to God rather than the devil?  What if our imagination flies along God's pathways?  When we take time to stare at clouds or watch the waves on the beach, we make space for wonder, for awe, for messages to the heart.

    When we engage in study, as we should, we apply our mind to the task of learning, we follow guidelines laid out by others, we look up references, we write essays on topic, we might even take exams.  All useful means for growing in our Christian understanding.
     But when we set aside the distraction of study guides and theological treatises, we're available to the "still small voice," we're overwhelmed by the marvel of creation, we pray without words in a jubilation of thanksgiving.  
    The idle mind allows our spirit to soar with the birds, to dip and dive and ride the winds as God directs.
     Happy summer, everyone.  Enjoy your season of re-creation.

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