Spend the Time

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes                                                           Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments oh dear                                                                       Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes                                                           How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets                                                                                                                                In midnights, in cups of coffee                                                                                                                  In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife                                                                                                In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes                                                      How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?                                                                                                                                         How about love?                                                                                                                                            How about love?                                                                                                                                   Measure in love (Jonathan D. Larson “Seasons of Love” Rent)

Rent is certainly not one of my favorite musicals; however, the song Seasons of Love is one part I enjoy. The song is a catchy reminder that we are all given a very precious gift, time on earth, and how we spend it is important. Do we spend our time in a hurried race to make money, perhaps in proving our worth in business or society, or perhaps, as the song suggests we spend our time in loving others?

Humans are social creatures; we all know this: it is so universal that Isaac Asimov incorporated a form of companionship into the AI becoming “more human” in I Robot. Yet, among the many ironies of modern life is that as we become more connected, we are drifting further apart. We spend so much time connected online that we fail to make true, deep connections with people. The phrase is popular that “Gamers are never alone”, yes but are they truly connected? Researchers have noticed that technology, particularly the proliferation of cell phones and internet based devices is leading our culture away from intimate relationships. We are beginning to fail at spending quality time with one another. I think Sherry Turkle has nailed it in saying,

The most dramatic change is our ability to be “elsewhere” at any point in time, to sidestep what is difficult, what is hard in a personal interaction and go to another place where it does not have to be dealt with. So, it can be as simple as what happens when 15-year-olds gather for a birthday party. As anyone who has ever been 15 knows, there is a moment at such events when everyone wants to leave. Things get awkward. It is, however, very important that everyone stay and learn to get along with each other. These days, however, when this difficult moment comes, each 15-year-old simply retreats onto Facebook. Whether or not they physically leave the birthday party, they have “left.” (Monitor on Psychology, June 2011, Vol 42, No. 6 p. 26)

We have begun to abandon the difficult parts of developing relationships, that awkward moment when we begin to get beyond the superficial and find out a person’s true intimate self. Quality time with another person allows us to both get to know that person and communicate our love for that person and their interests. Investing such time is essential to a happy, healthy relationship.

So much of popular relationship advice seems to focus on common interests, suggesting that healthy relationships need common interests to survive. This is only partially true; it is in sharing common interests that couples have the opportunity to spend quality time together talking about themselves through a shared experience. In turn sharing the experience creates shared memories and creates a loving bond. The true bond of the relationship is in the time spend becoming emotionally intimate with one another as you enjoy something together. A shared love of an activity is only a beginning for a relationship; the bonding comes in talking about how the activity impacts you.

The importance of sharing a meal has always been in the quality time spent together by the participants, and is why there are those clamoring for parents to make family dinner a priority; it is a chance for the members of the family to learn about the other members of the family in a shared experience. Meals are quality time, a place for loving conversation to begin, and just as we share them with our loved ones, so Christ also wants to share them with all of us. Look at Revelation 3:20, Jesus promises the Christian community in Laodicea (and by extension the rest of us) that he wants to have quality time with them sharing a meal. Much of Jesus’ was identified by quality time spent engaging people about themselves or as in the case of John 11showing empathy. When Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus died, Jesus came to the scene and his first response was to share in the experience to the sisters’ grief. Only after he had spent quality time with Mary and Martha did he proceed to raise Lazarus; his primary objective seemed to be to say that he would be with them sitting with them no matter what. Jesus’ ability to spend quality time with all of humanity is part of what convinces all of humanity of his love and compassion; yet, such love is not easy.

In Job 2, Job’s three friends come to Job’s aid and spend a week mourning with him. At the end of the week they begin to try to educate him and that is where their influence wanes. As long as they shared with Job’s experience they were true friends living with him, it was at the moment they stopped sharing in his suffering they lost him. I think they simply found sharing in their friend’s experience too painful. They were forced to encounter the deepest hurt of their friend and were not adequately prepared to sit with that hurt. They were forced to set aside themselves and live with another and in that person’s shoes. I think much of the awkwardness that centers around quality time spent together seems to be the losing of myself and selfish interests for the other person.

It is to this very denying of self-interest that we should reach, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:15-16 NIV). But how, where do we begin such a task? The first step is to take up the challenge of James 4, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8). Or as Jerome puts it,

Let foolish virgins stray abroad, but for your part stay at home with the Bridegroom; for if you shut your door, and, according to the precept of the Gospel, pray to your Father in secret, He will come and knock, saying: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man…open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Then straightway you will eagerly reply: “It is the voice of my beloved that knocks, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled.” It is impossible that you should refuse, and say: “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (Letters to Eustochium)

The great saints talked of mindfulness or meditation, an intentional stopping of one’s daily life to focus in on what God is doing and how you fit into that overall picture. This practice involves prayer and reflection and helps attune the participant to the mind of God and helps the person be ready for quality time with others. Mindfulness, like quality time is about focusing attention one other than ourselves and drawing close to that one, in this case God. The more one is in touch with the creator of humanity the more that individual will be able to connect with fellow created beings. In more intimate terms if you want to get to know your brothers and sisters, begin in spending quality time with our Parent.

Spending quality time with a loved one requires some sacrifice, you must forego yourself and pay attention to what the other person is going through. It is not easy sometimes to sit in open and honest conversation, remember the 15-year-old girls; yet, consistently spending quality time with another person builds a cache of love. Such a cache is essential for love to survive the years, and such a pattern of quality time is necessary for love to continue. Five hundred twenty-five thousand five hundred eighty-five minutes.

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