Woman on bench on shore webMany of us are familiar with the musical masterpieces of “Hey Jude” (Beatles), “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin), “In the Air Tonight” (Phil Collins), “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen), and “American Pie” (Don McLean) — but can you name one characteristic that is common to each song? They all have an ascending tempo — the beat gets increasingly faster as the song progresses. This same attribute could also be said of modern American culture, or at least until COVID took center stage.

As my schedule has been wiped clean of business meetings, soccer practices, and church functions, life has become bittersweet. I miss the people and activities that animate the human experience, yet relish the freedom from their influence on my time.

Until recently, like most Americans, I valued busyness. Busyness for the sake of busyness, as a badge of honor, as a right of passage to perceived status. Busyness distracts from the most important things in life and extricates the enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures. Recently, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air convicted me of this. Similar to the Transcendentalists of Kierkegaard’s era — namely, Thoreau and Emerson — we too can re-evaluate life beyond the busyness. There is beauty in silent reflection and splendor in the natural world, and we are now offered the opportunity to recapture this joy. The only question is, “Will you seize the opportunity?”

For years, I have heard my elders reminisce about the days when life was slow and things were simple. Life is once again slow, and without denigrating the seriousness of COVID and the complex challenges in our world, life is also a bit simpler, too.

As you weigh my words, I offer three applications:
Reflect — If there is one thing that this pandemic has reinforced, it is that the paradigm has now shifted from doing to being. Use the time to deal with personal issues, hurts, guilt, and emotional baggage that all of us have. Additionally, identify what is important. Pursue truth to construct and affirm your value system. Take time to read books, engage in deep conversations, and ask great questions. Many adamantly propagate their opinion but lack the ability to articulate why they believe what they believe. Know why you believe and think what you do. Commit to learning and growth.
Invest in Relationships — The values, virtues, and vices (if not addressed) that you will identify above will renew in the lives of your loved ones even after you expire. Devote quality time to those relationships to bless them with the skills, knowledge, and love that only a close relative can supply.
Act — Intentional effort is the only way to make positive, incremental change. As COVID loses its grip and activities increase their velocity, we may get drawn back into old habits unless we are properly anchored. While we are living in challenging times, there is a silver lining in the situation. It is imperative to rediscover life with a fresh perspective and embrace opportunities as they come.

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