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Let’s not forget the ‘thinking’ as well as the ‘doing’ in life

PUBLISHED: 15:48 26 February 2018

The Rev Susan Bowden Pickstock, Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice.

The Rev Susan Bowden Pickstock, Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice.

Archant

We shouldn’t spend all our time ‘doing’ at the expense of thinking, says The Rev Susan Bowden Pickstock.

These days I often find myself in a graveyard, in fact I’ve grown very fond of all my churchyards, and the people in them. One of my responsibilities is to oversee the stones and their inscriptions.

How fascinating, then, to learn about an ancient Roman. Scipio Barbatus’ epitaph is a pithy few lines on a stone slab. It says who he was and what he did. In contrast Emperor Augustus writes his own epitaph - seven sections on a wall, 35 paragraphs outlining all he has done.

Augustus was what he did.

It is culturally appropriate here in Britain, many centuries later, for us to ask total strangers a first question: ‘What do you do?’

“To be or not to be…” mused Shakespeare’s Hamlet (in a graveyard!).

‘To work, or not to be!’ our contemporary Hamlet might say.

But is this right? What of ‘being’ and ‘doing’?

I’m aware of how busy I am these days, and also how busy are all the ‘retired’ people who live in the villages I serve. I came across a podcast on ‘Post Work’. That is, the system that could come into place when robots take over everything and we all retire. It can only happen if we are all given a ‘UBI’ (a universal basic income) to enable us to manage without a working salary.

An interesting thought: what would we do if we didn’t work, and who would we be? Not everyone works. However, do we value those who don’t work as much as those who do? I’m not suggesting we condone universal idleness, but I wonder if our culture has gone to the other extreme?

In this season of Lent Christians imitate Jesus. Jesus whose work as God-and-man began with six weeks of doing nothing in the desert.

Or was it? In fact, I think it was six weeks of extremely tough thinking, feeling and experiencing. We wouldn’t call it doing much but it enabled Jesus to then be and do. Lent could allow us time for more thinking, feeling and experiencing; and less ‘doing’.

‘To work and to be’?

The Rev Susan Bowden Pickstock is Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice

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