Somehow the Holy Spirit gave me a good look at myself the other day, and instead of the usual despair and denial, provided a bit of an answer. My morning routine on the computer is pretty well set, but it emphasizes getting a quick look at a lot of stuff, reading and recommending a few newspaper articles, and then moving on. It’s timed for that, and lets me get into the kitchen for breakfast at the exact moment I’ve drunk my two measured cups of tea.
But over the course of a week, this practice generates a long tail of emails marked “keep as new,” waiting, waiting for their deeper examination in a moment that never comes. Or I get hasty and delete stuff that later I wish I had kept. And my primary in-box keeps flashing that its queue is overloaded and likely to start blocking incoming traffic.
So it’s a system — which is good — but it doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is because I don’t make time for filing.
Who is this Holy Spirit, who has led me not so much to see the need for filing (anyone can see that!) but to yearn for it, and now, to see some processes? In good congregational fashion, it’s my current religious community — the Facebook friends who have been either filing or cleaning their offices or completely giving up Facebook in order to do something more meaningful. It’s my roommate, who doesn’t consider her computer routines complete until she has filed each message in an appropriate folder. It’s my sister-in-law once removed, who has one computer window daily, every morning, after which she goes on to other things. (I note that she does seem to check for emergency emails from time to time in the afternoon, because she has answered one recently.)
Thanks to them, I am going to limit (not give up) my FB and other computer wanderings in order to spend time filing my messages.
I’ve already done a bit of cleaning.
My problem is figuring out the filing system to use. Much of my research these days is online, and therefore, I am developing stray papers and folders and even bookmarks on topics of interest. What is to be done about these?
And if it goes really well, I hope to shift some of my old Politywonk posts from Livejournal over here, deleting the rest and closing out the account.
Sounds like too much to be a spiritual practice. But spiritual practice means taking small snippets on a regular basis, not so much to “finish” anything as to strengthen ourselves for large projects God puts in front of us.
And the reason this is Lenten work, not just office work, is because cleaning old papers is so emotional. It brings you face to face with things you wanted to do and didn’t have time for. People you no longer keep in touch with the way you wish you did. Projects that fell by the wayside. Great quotes and paragraphs that got cut out of sermons or prayers and never found their way into another one. In short, the mortality of the mind.
When our Puritan forebears wrote about “mutual religious edification,” this is what they meant: learning from each other’s best offerings in order to better ourselves. To strengthen our hearts for the pain life sends our direction. Support for our consciences, to do what is hard to do.
Thank you, democratic congregationalism.
Thank You, Holy Spirit.