Once a man was riding a galloping horse down a country lane. As the horse and rider thundered past, a farmer standing by a gate called out:
‘Where are you going?’
‘Don’t ask me, ask the horse,’ the man yelled as he flashed by.
The man on horseback stands for the person whose life consists of non-stop activity. Such a person is not free, but is a slave to his work. But his problem goes deeper. He is not in control of his life. It’s as if some power has got into him that is driving him along. This is not a good way to live.
People can get so caught up in work that they haven’t a minute for themselves. Activity can become a disease. This is a dangerous situation. People can suffer burn-out or breakdown. Generous people are more at risk than selfish people. We need to take care of ourselves. It can’t be all out-put and no in-put. Only by paying careful attention to our own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs can we remain joyful givers.
The most beneficial thing of all is just to be motionless as in meditation - without saying or doing anything. Just to sit still as one might sit by a fire. This may sound easy, but in practice it’s very difficult. Because as soon as we stop, we feel empty, perhaps even useless. Most people get their sense of self-worth from doing. Their value as persons depends on their usefulness. They don’t know how to cope with idleness and stillness. The result is that their lives can be shallow and superficial.
On the other hand, when we immerse ourselves in the quiet and stillness of solitude, our projects lose their power over us, and we experience our true worth, which consist not in doing but in being.
Of course this can become a selfish thing. It can be a cop-out and an escape. But so too can work. Work can be a cop-out from facing life’s challenges.
We can lose ourselves in work. But we can also find ourselves in work.
This is why we need a lonely place in our lives. We need to learn how to combine action and contemplation. Going away is not escaping, but leads to re-engagement. There is a time to give and a time to receive. For a healthy life we need to take care of both.