Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My World is Fast – How am I Handling It?

(This blog was written during the course of a tragic scenario of a train worker being struck and killed by a train in LA. Meanwhile, the whole train system got backed up and I was stuck on a seldom moving train for 5 hours)

So here I am at Union Station in Los Angeles. I feel like I am being pulled through some story that has so many lessons along the way. And that everything that is happening is a part of some strange unraveling. Ever feel like you are in a movie?

I had a great time these past 2 days hanging out with my dad. We spent a good part of the day here in Los Angeles where he grew up. Los Angeles exhausts me. I think I might hate Los Angeles. It wasn’t always that way. When I lived in Albuquerque New Mexico, we used to drive 16 hour on I-40 to visit our grandparents and extended family here. I loved it. It was so much bigger, so much brighter, it felt like more important things were happening.

I think that is the way L.A. was designed. By some guy or group who just decided what kind of vibe it should have. They just said, “Hey, let’s make people feel like lesser people unless they look, act, eat, and live like Los Angeles.” I think that’s what exhausts me now. Either I got old all of a sudden, or I just realized that the fast lane really is the tiring one. And “better” only if your definition of “better” comes from the idea of speed and being trendy.

Our world has changed faster than we were ready for. I asked my dad what it was like to grow up in a crazy place like this, but he told me it wasn’t like this. There wasn’t all the traffic, the crowds, and the hysteria. He said that they lived life within the few blocks that they were in. A trip to San Diego would have been a very big deal.

We live in a world now where a trip almost anywhere really isn’t that big of a deal. Communication over vast lands is nothing. As I was here in the station, I sent a text picture from my phone that one of you from New York might have looked at and read just 30 seconds later. We play x-box against strangers in Japan. We have i-chats across the globe. This world has not only shrunk, but our way of going about it feels more like ants scurrying on a burning ant-hill.

(pics from today)

Are you scared like me? Have we gotten ahead of ourselves? Do we know what we are doing? Our world has gotten fast. How are you handling it?

I’m not handling it well. One of my ways of handling it is getting RSI (repeated stress injury) from using the mouse and keyboard too much. The combination between the hours of use and the amount of tension in my wrists creates painful shocks up and down my arms. I’m constantly running, fast and hard. I’m often worrying, usually about things that I can’t fix or change. At the end of the day, the speed, the emails, the shrinking world and my ability to conquer it through the internet never makes me happier. I feel more like a victim than a conqueror.

The concept of rest has been something I’ve been pursuing in the midst of all of this. While my world gets faster, I am trying to slow down. The band name Future of Forestry comes from this concept when C.S Lewis wrote a poem about a world in which all the trees have been cut down and kids who grow up in post-modernity don’t know what a tree is anymore. What I took from it was the question of whether or not we as people will know what rest is. Will we even know HOW to rest as this whole thing develops?

It takes me approximately 24 hours to BEGIN resting. I try to make it a point to take 2 days off in a row. When I do that, my goal is to avoid emails, or discussion about business, or even thoughts of business. As soon as that period of official rest begins, I look like one of those ants who got de-railed from the rest of the line. Quick and chaotic circles. I keep forgetting how I’m supposed to be resting and I begin fighting myself so that I won’t go check my email again. If I give in, I end up working the rest of the rest time. If I persist, something beautiful happens. I begin to start thinking about things I don’t think about. Like wondering how a combustion engine works or how the brain distinguishes color. I start talking to my wife about what I love and what I’m thinking about and interested in. She loves it. By day 2, I am living again. I become more like the child-like explorer that God made me to be. It is my taste of discovery and fulfillment.

The depressing part of this story is that usually by the time I am in that mode, its time to work again. So my total time of true rest then becomes something around 43 minutes and 16 seconds. The rest of the day and a half was spent getting there.

Join the battle with me. C.S Lewis asked us how many trees would be left by the end of modernity. And in a metaphorical way, maybe he is asking how many of us will be left when this digital world has turned everyone into speed zombies. How many of us will have hearts at rest? How many of us will know what its like to sit in the quiet presence of God? Will we be split and fractured by our restless multi-tasking? Or will we find something better to win?

I hate losing. When it comes to competitions, I have always (since child-hood) taken the approach that if I couldn’t win, it isn’t worth entering the race. I entered the race about 10 years ago. About 8 years into it, I realized there were no winners. Just people who looked like they were winning but were exhausted inside. Today, I am fighting to be a part of a different race. One in which the journey to the innermost parts of my heart brings me to the place where God has made his home. The further I journey to that place, the more I discover that He has been waiting there for me. Not in some lofty attainment or achievement. But just waiting there…quietly in the depths of my heart.

Thank You, Father for making your home in my heart. Today, as I sit on this long Amtrak train, I long for home.


~grace sangalang said...

I just came across your blog and wanted to let you know that I have been very encouraged by it. Rest is definitely something I wish I knew how to do more, especially since I live in L.A. (But I really do love Los Angeles, despite the stress, vanity, and craziness of it all. It's just such an interesting and diverse place.) Something I thought about - If God rested who's infinite and all-powerful, how much more rest do I, a finite and weak human, need? It's quite prideful of me to think I don't need rest. Yet, many times that's the way I operate and live my life. Thanks for the reminder of rest.

I also want to let you know how much I appreciate your music and seeing God work through your music. May God continue to bless you as He works through you and grows you in His love and joy.

Josh said...

I have been thinking along similar lines Eric. I don't know when the last time was that I gave myself one FULL day to rest.

Once I heard of this prayer warrior who considered his day a waste if he didn't spend 6-8 hours in prayer. I barely know how to spend an hour a day in prayer (and that I rarely do.) How can I spend 6-8! I think he discovered the joy of resting just as you have. I pray that God will teach me to rest so that I may hear Him better.