A couple Sundays ago my wife suggested I listen to NPR’s interview of musician Glen Hansard, who, with Marketa Irglova, starred in the wonderful motion picture Once. They composed and performed all the songs, including the Academy Award-winning Falling Slowly.
Hansard, who just released his first solo album, Rhythm and Repose, was telling Scott Simon that he loved his work, but recognized that there would be times ahead when he would need to take a step back and rest. Said Hansard, “When the soil goes fallow, you must leave the field for a couple of years.”
The day after I listened to the interview, I happened to meet a Jesuit priest, who mentioned St. Ignatius of Loyola’s emphasis on the dynamic of action and reflection. The continuing interplay between action and reflection allows a person to become, in Ignatius’s language, a “contemplative in action” – someone who recognizes God in all the things encountered in an active life.
Finally, on Tuesday, while reading the book Managing, I was confronted with this conclusion: “Effective managers figure out how to be reflectively thoughtful in a job that naturally discourages it.” “Too much reflection and nothing gets done; too much action and things get done thoughtlessly.”
Ever get the feeling that someone is trying to tell you something?
It is difficult to attend to both the need to act and the need to reflect. Even as I write this piece, the phone is ringing, emails are arriving, instant messages are popping up on my screen and I’m having trouble being reflective enough to give this article thoughtful attention. And then, of course, there are the times that I would just rather be doing, accomplishing, checking off the to-do list.
But, then, none of this is really new, is it? Somewhere around 2300 years ago, the Jewish people were told, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens…. a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” In that spirit, I’m going to refrain from continuing to write and instead invite you to spend a few minutes in quiet reflection (I promise to do so as well). Here’s a website in the Ignatian tradition that can help guide you through: Sacred Space.