‘Are you busy?’ appears to be quickly replacing ‘how are you?’ as a commonplace greeting. I’ve been noticing it more and more over the last few months, its been annoying me but its taken me a while to figure it out. ‘So what?’ you may think, but what does it tell us about who we are? It seems to me that this seemingly innocuous question is a symptom of something much deeper. No longer are people interested in how I’m doing, what I may be thinking about, the questions I’m struggling with. Instead all they want to know is if I’m productive – am I justifying my place on the planet by doing stuff.
Well excuse me if I happen to feel that there is more to me than what I do – phew some of you who are aware of my coffee drinking, talking about God career might think. It seems to me its a sign that our worth is not found in the depth of our character as Martin Luther King dreamed of but instead in how much we are doing. To stop in the fast-paced world we live in is almost criminal. The pressure to keep going, to do more, to work longer, to earn more, to keep learning keeps getting greater. Now I’m an activist and I love doing stuff, but as I get older, the more I realise how much I need to stop and take time out, to allow myself to slow down, and remember that the world revolves around God and what he’s doing, not me. Time to think and read is so valuable, to follow the model of Jesus taking time out is more important than ever with the pace of life we live today. To ask each other how busy we are simply confounds this lie that our value lies in what we do, not the content of our character, not in following a God who rests when his work is done and who calls us to a balanced not a frantic life…
On a slight side issue, the whole greetings thing is interesting, and I realise I’m pretty guilty of this so its something I need to work on. When I was in Tanzania (not a phrase I’ve used for a long time!) one of the things that struck me was the amount of time people made for each other, how they valued each other, how when they stopped to ask how someone was, they meant it and waited until they had heard everything. Today we ask ‘how are you?’ and don’t even wait for an answer or expect a ‘fine’ or ‘grand’, and not for people to actually open up and share what’s really going on. We’re good at the niceties but how much do we really care?
How prepared are we to take the challenge of thinking about what we say when we ask people questions and meaning what we say?