I once heard Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, a well-known author and retreat director, tell about how she used to type letters to her friends without pressing the space bar just for fun.
They were practically incomprehensible, since the reader could not tell where one word ended and the other began. She related that practice to the way we live and how we jam everything together without taking time to rest or breathe. She recommended that, if we want our lives to have meaning, we need to create spaces for solitude and silence.
When work weeks were cut to 40 hours, people were concerned about what they would do with all the extra time. In reality, people are more stressed today than ever before.
In spite of all the wonderful time-saving machines and gadgets we have available, we seem to have less instead of more time to relax. Pressing the space bar is a good image for those who are experiencing overload.
Why do we fill our day with so many activities that there is little time to just be? There are a number of reasons that come to mind. One is the need to prove that we are worthwhile, to prove ourselves to others.
We get overly involved in organizations and work so that we will feel important and others will be impressed by our accomplishments.
Another reason is avoidance. When we take time to relax, we are often confronted with disquieting thoughts and disturbing feelings. If we stay busy, we obliterate those things that we do not want to face in our lives.
Another reason may be fear of accepting our shadow, our dark side. We think we know ourselves, but many of us know only the false selves that we have put on to protect us from hurt or to hide our weaknesses. We remain empty and unhealed because we have not discovered our true selves.
Another possible reason is habit. We are so used to rushing around that we become immune to the fact that we need to slow down. We continue to dash madly from one thing to another because we don’t know any other way to live.
Pressing the space bar is not selfishness or self-indulgence. It is a healthy care for oneself so that we can be more available for others. If we are worn out and frazzled, we cannot be truly present or life-giving to our family and friends.
Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, has another powerful image about creating space in our lives. She writes about “going into the gaps” which are “the spirit’s own home, the attitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind person unbound.”
“Go up into the gaps, if you can find them,” Dillard says. “They come and go, appear and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Let them frighten and lure you, fill you with pleasure and pain, urge you onward and upward and backward all at once.”
Summer is a good time to “press the space bar” or “find the gaps.” We may touch our woundedness, but we will also touch deep joy. In addition to making new discoveries about ourselves, we will be able to have more energy for the important people in our lives.
We also will have more time to listen to God who speaks to us in the silence, and to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us if we open our eyes to see.