The Death of Productivity, the Birth of Peace

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : March 9, 2005

Yesterday, I had lunch with my friend Brandon in downtown Minneapolis, where he works.  Instead of driving downtown (which I hate to do because of parking), I took the light rail in.  It takes about 15 minutes of walking, and another 15 minutes of riding to get from my house to downtown via the light-rail.  That’s a total of one hour "wasted"–a total of 1/2 hour walking, and another 1/2 hour sitting.  I didn’t bring anything to read, I just sat and looked out the window. 

I noticed things I’d never have noticed otherwise…like the garbage tent made by a homeless person somewhere between the Lake Street/Midtown station and the Downtown East/Metrodome station.  Like the women sitting in front of me talking about politics.  Like the businessman talking on his cell with a hands-free device (or is he a crazy man who talks to himself, but wears a hands-free device as a cover?).

I’ve thought about the issue of productivity before…I’ve even blogged about it.  Productivity has become a virtue–a moral imperative in our society.  We look down upon the unproductive.  We all have friends who find a great deal of time just to hang out and be with friends.  They get precious little real work done, and get a whole bunch of time to recreate and relate.  We think productivity is a virtue because we all measure our worth by
how much we can do in the sliver of time we’ve been allotted.  And when
we see someone enjoying themselves without putting in the time being
productive, we resent them. Damn them. 

I don’t think we can find rest and peace in our lives unless we are willing to sacrifice the virtue of productivity.  I’m not saying we should be lazy.  But we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that we are measured by our ability to get things done.  Nor should we feel guilty if we "waste" time regularly–daily. 

Now, I think there are some "wasteful" activities that don’t really give peace–like too much TV watching or video-game playing or internet surfing.  I think the best way to waste time is with friends, talking…or alone, walking.  I want to spend much more of my time doing those sorts of things.

And in order to make this more than just talk…I’ve just about made up my mind to sell one of our cars.  Amy and I got by for most of our marriage with one car.  We got two cars so that we could be more productive.  Screw productive.  I get more than enough done to justify my existence.  I’m going to ride the light rail more, walk more, take the bus more, etc.  These things will force me to spend time listening…thinking…and I’ll probably lose weight while I’m at it too.

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One Response to “The Death of Productivity, the Birth of Peace”

  1. Bryan on March 12th, 2005 3:24 pm

    Thank you for such a thought-provoking blog. My wife and I began with two cars and are now using only one while trying to get out of debt (some medical bills that really suck - also the stupid consumerism thing you talked about - yeah, we’re trying to get out of that.)

    I have been challenged to do more to interact with people. All kinds of people. I am a youth pastor, so I have already been given a great opportunity to listen all the time. Perhaps some public transportation would do me some good.

    Thanks again for the encouragement. I am a somewhat new blogger and am trying to join some networks of progressive Christian bloggers. Here is my site.

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