Routine

By , 19 September 2008 9:42 pm

Here’s a question for you. Is routine a good thing or a bad thing?

I ask because, as happens in a teacher’s life about this time of the year, routine has settled in. Last week, I had an entire change of timetable and five new students. This week I have had merely one change of room and two new students. Next week I suspect neither rooms nor students will change. I even vaguely know where I ought to be at any one moment and without consulting my colour-coded timetable. Looking ahead over the next nine months or so which is all that the teaching year realistically is, I can broadly sketch out the highs and lows ahead. After four years full-time in my college I pretty much know what is going to be on my desk every week or so. Routine has set in.

Now don’t get me wrong: there is a lot to be said for routine. The regular cycle of the week, without crises and changes, is surely good for us. To be honest, as I get older, I find I can manage without crises. All the medical evidence seems to be that it really isn’t very good for us either. And who doesn’t ultimately like that monthly pay packet? You could even argue that the institution of the Sabbath in the Bible sanctifies routine with its call for ‘six days work and one day off’. Repeat ad infinitum.

And yet… isn’t there something rather soporific about it? Something terribly, worryingly, deadeningly numbing? Doesn’t routine force us to stare at the road immediately ahead of us and to neglect that distant (but perhaps not that distant) horizon where this world ends and eternity begins. I suspect we need to be wary of routine and its accompanying myopia. Forgive me, incidentally, if you are in finance; this has not been a routine week. Yet one of the curious effects of routine, it seems to me, is that it deadens us not just to our own relentless march to heaven or hell but to the trials of others. We stay locked in the furrow of our daily labours. Perhaps the words of the writer to the Hebrews ought to come to mind: ‘For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.’ (Hebrews 13:14) Just so.

Simeon continues to make good progress by the way; thanks for all your prayers. The books alas, need something to generate more interest, but I know not what.

Have a good week

Chris

5 Responses to “Routine”

  1. Terry says:

    Chris,

    A couple of thoughts. First, I appreciate your wording: “I suspect we need to be wary of routine and its accompanying myopia.”, and, “We become locked in the furrow of our daily routines.”

    True enough. But it seems to me that routine, in itself, is merely a framework upon which we hang the real “meat” of our lives. I suspect that Mother Theresa had a rather fixed routine, but I doubt that she felt myopic.

    A useful analogy is the relationship between computer hardware and software. Routine is the hardware, and software is the stuff we stuff into our routines. Obviously, it’s the software that gives meaning, but it can be hampered by faulty or insufficient hardware.

    Another element here is how full we make our routines. My father-in-law has a wonderful way of differentiating between his activities. He labels them as “fruitful”, and “productive”. The productive activities get things done, while the fruitful ones add richness and meaning to his life and the lives of those around him. Both are part of his routine, and both are necessary to a healthy balance. The challenge, he says, is in making productive tasks fruitful. “How can I introduce an eternal or ‘rich’ element to this process?” A good question, and one that becomes easier, I suspect, with practice. But here’s the kicker – it requires that we approach everything we do with deliberation. That we be purposeful in all we do. Think (and pray) our way through our days. Etc. Easier said than done.

    I like the idea of trying to create space between the items in my daily calendar. Do I slam from one thing to another with scarcely time to catch my breath, or do I block out contemplative time – time to “be”, not to “do”?

    That, I think, is the crux of the question. Real fulfillment comes from being who God made us to be, not in doing all the things we believe we need to do. As has been quoted, “God loves you, and people have a wonderful plan for your life.”

    Carpe diem.

    Take care,

    Terry

  2. Boaz says:

    In monastic traditions (at least some of the Catholic ones–are there any others?), there is a set routine for every day. Worship is part of the routine (Matins, Lauds, Prime, etc. to Vespers), but also the routine is supposed to be worship.

    Planting a garden? Worship.
    Copying a bible? Worship.
    Making food, cleaning the monastery, meeting the needs of others in the community? All worship.

    Perhaps it is the attitude of coming to each task with a sense of reverence. A decision that is easy to make but so difficult to remember or to persevere in…

  3. Terry says:

    Boaz,

    Is the monastic life (and ‘coming to each task with a sense of reverence’) a natural outworking of that pre-existing tendency in one’s life, or is it necessary to first place oneself in some similar type of environment to have any chance of truly developing the habit?

    Terry

  4. Boaz says:

    Terry,

    I would reply: neither. It’s a natural outworking of making a decision and being disciplined enough to keep following through. Like going jogging every day.

  5. Gracie says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK you for using the word “soporific” in a sentence! That helped make my day, or what’s left of it.

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