Catalyst

Learning from Life and Leadership

Unbending the Bow

The bow cannot always stand bent, nor can human frailty subsist without  some lawful recreation.

-Miguel de Cervantes-

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

 -Genesis 2:2-

broken bow

As a kid, my mother tried to keep us busy during the summer. One activity for which she signed us up at the rec center was archery. I fell in love with the sport. I got pretty good for a 9 year old.

One thing I remember is at the end of each session, you would bend the bow a little and unhook the strong. The bow would go straight, relaxed and ready for the next session. The only way the bow kept its strength was unstrung when not in use.

Our culture doesn’t put the person up at night like the archer does his bow. For our work, human beings have become working machines.

It started with the industrial revolution. Electric lights allowed factories to crank out widgets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Shift work became normative.

Then came the technological age. With the assumption of easier labor, tech tools have tied us cell phones, computers, and tablets. Now, the wire is our leash, and we are always “available.”

Yet, we are not working machines. People need rest.

Two things happened to me in the past few months to jab my attention back to this truth.

In July, I took two weeks of vacation. I had never before had that kind of block of vacation. I had planned to do it at Christmas, but on the third day, my father passed away suddenly and rest fled. Through a series of other events, rest got buried under the press of the urgencies of each day.

I grew weary by the day. My concentration faded. Energy was in short supply. I developed bad habits. Pushing harder made life harder.

The second occurred on Labor Day weekend. I surgeon used my foot as a canvas for his scalpel (toe surgery). Recuperation required a two-week cast with keep my foot elevated above my heart.

I thought I would probably go back to work the second week, but I was wrong. So for two weeks, I took to my recliner. I could walk only with a walker, so I did not walk much. I was forced to do little. I went a little stir crazy but also felt the release of so much tension.

With rest, a future-focus returned. Some projects (which felt like pushing a boulder up a hill) became easier. Energy and the reason for getting up in the morning returned.

I made one observation while lying on my back with a plaster weight on my leg. It is better to get to rest than have to rest.

When do you unstring the bow? When does it go bent?

Learn to unplug from your electronic device daily. We don’t need the constant ding of messages and emails. The world will not crumble if we ignore Facebook and Twitter for a few days.

Listen to the sounds around you. When I walk my dog in the morning, few people and cars are around. I listen again to the birds sing and warble. I hear the conversation of the creatures and my heart eases its strain.

Get more sleep. Do you really need to hear about the 4 murders, two rapes, and 5 car crashes in town that is the stock and trade of the 10 o’clock news? Turn off the TV and go to sleep.

Forget the idea you are irreplaceable. One day someone will replace you or worse. No one will need to replace you. Take the vacation or the day off. The work will still be there when you get back.

You can hear the creaking of the bow that is always bent. Don’t let that be the sound of your soul.

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