At two recent funerals, in which I was involved, the well-known words of the Welsh Victorian poet W H Davies have been read:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
For me, these words are very up to date, encapsulating the feeling that many people have today that life is too busy and specifically that we allow electronic gadgets – especially our mobile phones – to dominate our lives so much that we have lost the ability to create space for reflective thinking.
Comments like this are often made about young people but are true of people of all ages. I was reminded of this when listening to Sir Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, at the recent Cheltenham Literature Festival. Sir Vince was there to promote his first novel Open Arms. He was asked by his interviewer to compare his lifestyle as a government minister in the coalition government, with his life subsequently, after he had lost his seat as an MP in the 2015 election.
He identified the key difference as having time to think, to reflect and to write. As a government minister he was trapped in a lifestyle of working from 9am until midnight and of being very much in the public eye. What he had enjoyed during the last two years was - space.
We all need space for reflection and refreshment but many of us have to deliberately carve it out of lives which may be busy - or, of course, may be just cluttered.
At a particularly busy and demanding time in my life, I spoke with a friend who is a monk. We contrasted his lifestyle, nourished by its daily routine of prayer, praise and reflection, with mine. ‘You will only survive’, he told me, ‘if you put grit in your diary.’ By diary grit he meant setting aside significant blocks of time for reflection and prayer, in addition to anything I might do on a daily basis.
I followed his advice and booked days into my diary when I would reserve a guest room at the local monastery for stepping aside from the busyness of my life - a time for standing and staring.
God knew about our need for standing and staring when he laid out plans for the human race that we should keep one day in seven as special. Of course, there have always been some people who have had to work on Sundays, but it does feel as though the disappearance of Sunday as a distinctively different day, has been a great loss in many ways.
Fortunately, we still have nine places of respite along the Churn Valley where we can find the mental and emotional space to reflect on life, to share our worries and anxieties with God - and, hopefully, to find refreshment and fresh inspiration in his presence.
Perhaps we need some Sunday morning grit in our diaries!