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Midwest Today, Fall 2000


A Quiet Life Is A Happy Life

It's True: You've Got to Stop and Smell the Roses Along the Way


Has the hectic pace of modern living gotten you down? Has your life grown too complicated? Has the quest for more money and more excitement become an obsession? Surveys show that a lot of Americans are feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities. In their frenzied search for fulfillment, they've gotten themselves into situations in which they feel like they're on a treadmill and can't get off.

Among many couples, both spouses work because they claim they have to make ends meet. Granted, in this society with its wide disparities of income, it often takes two breadwinners in a family to survive. But in other cases, what people are really saying is that they have to pay for the luxuries to which they've grown accustomed -- the lavish vacations, boats, new cars, brand-name wardrobes, expensive houses, costly memberships in the golf club, the motor homes.

But as Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy, we didn't bring anything into this world, and we won't take anything with us when we leave. People who want to be rich fall into all sorts of traps and temptations. They are caught by foolish and harmful desires that drag them down.

What may be needed is a major re-evaluation of one's priorities.

Many of us pride ourselves on never having an idle moment. Yet when there is no time for quiet, there is no time for the soul to grow. The man who walks through the countryside sees much more than the one who runs.

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell said once, "A certain power of enduring boredom is essential to a happy life. A life too full of excitement dulls the palate, substituting titillation for profound satisfaction, cleverness for wisdom and jagged surprises for beauty."

Russell pointed out that the lives of most great men have not been exciting except at rare moments. Nor did the great men of the past travel widely. Kant, the renowned 18th-century German philosopher, never got more than ten miles from his home in Konigsberg in Prussia, Russell wrote. Darwin, after going around the world, spent the rest of his life in his own house. Socrates would mainly just take a walk in the afternoon and meet a few friends along the way. Jesus, according to the Bible, never left the confines of tiny Palestine.

Russell was critical of modern parents who "provide their children with far too many passive amusements. They do not realize the importance to a child of having one day like any other except for somewhat rare occasions."

Constructive purposes, Russell observed, "do not easily form themselves in a child's mind if he is living a life of distractions."
We are creatures of the Earth, Russell said. "We draw our nourishment from it just as the plants and animals do. The rhythm of Earth's life, to which the human body has adapted through the ages, is slow. Rest is as essential as motion."

A happy life, said Russell, must be to a great extent a quiet life "for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live."
mlIn his book "Intimacy With the Almighty," Charles Swindoll writes, "Noise and words and frenzied, hectic schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to His still, small voice and making us numb to His touch."

Hans Christoffersen observes, "Jesus lived so in tune with the wonder of life that even the slightest thing moved Him. He saw with the eyes of God: 'And God saw that it was good.' He saw the overwhelming beauty of the light, heard the sounds of life, hope, and faith. When he spoke of it, he called it the reign of God."

Solomon, Israel's philospher/king, ex-perienced the ennui that troubles so many today. In his book Ecclesiastes, he tells of his search for life's meaning. He tried everything. For awhile he devoted himself to learning, but he concluded that "with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief." (Ecc. 1:18).

Then he immersed himself in all the pleasures available on this planet: productive work and accomplishment, the physical pleasures of food and sex, and entertainment.

Yet in these he did not find fulfillment. In fact, he confessed, "I hated life... All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." (Ecc. 2:17).

Solomon voiced a complaint familiar to many of us: He said our bodies ache during the day, and work is torture. Then at night our thoughts are troubled.

He noted that our eyes and ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear -- that no matter how much we acquire, we want more, and whether we be wise or foolish, we all end up the same: we all die and are soon forgotten.

Throughout the rest of his book, Solomon recommends that people learn to appreciate the simple pleasures that life offers us, to be cheerful, to be content with what we have rather than to always chase after something else. He points out that God intends for people to enjoy His gifts of work, food, drink, friendship and marriage.

But he says that only those who have a connection with God can enjoy them. We need something outside ourselves, larger than ourselves, to establish boundaries and give meaning to our lives. Thus he summarizes:

Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about. God will judge everything we do, even what is done in secret, whether good or bad.

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