Activity and purpose

Confession time: I am a huge fan of The Sound of Music. This has caused many people laughter and eye rolls over the years (along with my love of Katherine Hepburn movies and my belief that Dirty Dancing is the greatest movie ever made) but there it is. I’m a fan of the music, the storyline and the acting. The Reverend Mother was grossly under appreciated and Rolfe’s betrayal still pisses me off just thinking about it.

Usually, my favorite line from the movie comes from The Reverend Mother when she talks with Marie upon her return to the Abbey: “Maria, these walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.

But lately, it’s been a line from Captain von Trapp that’s been stuck in my head: “Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.”

Chew on that for a while. Are we busy with things that have meaning for us? Or are we busy for the sake of being busy? Are we defining ourselves by what we do rather than by who we are? Activity may make us look important and useful, not just to others but to ourselves as well. In the American ethos of forward progress, we sometimes scoff at stillness and silence. Rest and relaxation become luxuries or worse, markers of “laziness.” But action which isn’t authentic won’t really be productive. Action for the sake of action gives the appearance of purpose, but in reality lacks any real meaning.

For five minutes today, I pledge to stop being busy. I will take time to just sit. All I have to do in those five minutes is be. That’s right. For five minutes, my existence is about, well, existing. It’s not about making mental lists or working through my next assignment or wondering if the thunderstorms will hold off for my triathlons this weekend. I will put activity aside, if just for five minutes, so that my actions truly create a life filled with purpose instead of just hinting at one.

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