Friday, May 31, 2013

In praise of puttering

As I caught up on back issues of The Christian Century, I came across a wonderful article by Rodney Clapp (click here to see it online).

I'm not sure how long the whole article will appear on the magazine's website, so I put some of the best parts here - and remind you that you can subscribe to this wonderful publication by clicking here. I would also recommend anything written by Rodney Clapp; his book Tortured Wonders is particularly good.

This is about the best description I've ever read of my "day off" on Fridays. I imagine a lot of sabbatical days like this:

The art of puttering

In our hypermediated age, there is much talk of multitasking. Multitaskers come equipped with Internet connections and attempt to engage several tasks with their keyboards, televisions and music players. The multitasker is marked by flitting, fractured attention and a sustained sense of urgency. Since multitasking is mediated by communication devices, it concentrates on the virtual world rather than the physical world surrounding the multitasker.
An older but not entirely lost practice is known as puttering. I know puttering is not a lost art because my spouse, Sandy, and some friends engage in it regularly. Sandy, as an expert putterer, will start a load of wash, then grade some papers (she is a teacher), check her e-mail, do some dusting, then pay some bills. Puttering differs from multitasking in that most of it is grounded in the actual, physical world. Puttering is also marked by a gentle, even leisurely rhythm; it involves moving back and forth from one chore to another at a sedate pace. Puttering, unlike multitasking, is not marked by a sense of urgency. Puttering allows for breaks in the work, for a cup of coffee or even a burst of play.
. . . In the spirit of playfulness and with puttering in mind, we could visit anew the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38–41. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. “She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’”
Perhaps the main difference between Mary and Martha is that Mary knows how to putter and Martha does not. Martha is so task-oriented that she is “distracted.” She can see her service only as a series of urgent tasks. She is unable to imagine and enact a rhythm of puttering, of moving unhurriedly from one task to another and taking time to pause—to pause, in this case, to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speak. Mary, on the other hand, knows how to putter. She follows the gentle rhythms of puttering and takes time to stop and devote attention to their visitor.
. . . Like Mary, the putterer has time to listen, to mull things over, to attend to the day mindfully and meditatively. Putterers are at peace with the world—the actual, physical world in front of them—and their work. They are not “worried and distracted by many things” but instead move in and among their chores at ease.
. . . Puttering leaves or opens space for a frequent and leisurely return to prayer throughout the day. Its rhythms are freeing and relaxing. Putterers have “chosen the better part, which will not be taken away” from them.

No comments:

Post a Comment