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One of the most memorable lines I read this week was easily one written by Izaak Walton in the 1653 publication of The Complete Angler. “Whether Contemplation or Action be the chiefest thing wherin the happiness of a man doth most consist in this world?” Much of the book is (understandably) antiquated in its use of and spelling of English, but what Izaak is effectively highlighting here is a thought that still rings out in many hearts today. What is more important when it comes to building happiness in our lives, contemplation or action? Though he shortly thereafter would resolve that it is a healthy combination of the two elements, I thought it might be interesting to take a moment and ponder our relationship as it stands with the second key word here: action.
Oxford Dictionary defines the word action as “the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.” The first thought that came to my mind upon reading this was one out of curiosity for the average percentage of our lives spent in action. Luckily, there are some amazing studies out there such as the one conducted by behavioral scientist, Andrew Naber, who wrote that a whopping ⅓ of our life is spent at work! Immediately, my next thought was “well, isn’t another ⅓ spent on sleep?!” and, “Do we seriously fit everything else into the remaining ⅓ of our lives?” Turns out I was right about the average on sleeping statistics (peep the deets here), and it only made me curious to know how wisely most of steward our time. Moreover, I was curious about the relationship between what we wish to achieve, and what we actually accomplish in our lives.
Have you ever heard that saying, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”? I don’t know why, but for some reason I was thinking about this statement recently and it just wouldn’t get out of my head, so after about a week of constantly returning to the thought of this statement (in the shower, on the train, over the phone), I decided to google it. To my delight, I found the following information at dictionary.com:
“...Today often used as a rueful admission of weariness or other physical weakness, this idiom was first recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 26:41), where Jesus tells his disciples: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” A modern equivalent is I would if I could but I can't.”
First off… how cool is this excerpt? This is literally the dictionary coming in for the win with a bit of historical context, and I could not be more in love. Lol, but seriously, can I tell you something even cooler? The “modern equivalent” to this statement actually detracts from the significance of what was originally said, because the real truth is that you would if you could, but you could and you didn’t. How dope is that? I say it’s “dope” because understanding the detraction in our modern adaptation of “I can’t” allows us to better understand that when Jesus was speaking to his disciples in this particular scripture, he wasn’t just giving them a task that he knew was too much for them to handle. What he was really doing here was reminding them that they were fully capable of completing the task at hand.
And as far as the temptation they were facing, it was SLEEP!! How often do you find yourself at your job trying to keep watch over your work responsibilities and you feel like you’re constantly fighting sleep? (Funny how it seems like that’s the only time the manager asks you to stay late, huh?) We tend to joke about the things we don’t like when it comes to work as a means of quelling the pains we feel, but what are we doing to actualise our dreams and truly live an abundant life? For some of us, staying in that job for whatever reason (perceived stability, security, etc.) is our real life version of the disciples’ sleep in the scene from the Bible. For others, temptation might look like not saying what you feel because you’re too afraid of the potential discomfort that comes with standing for what you know is true.
Sometimes we get into a little bit of trouble in our lives and we choose to believe we are too weak to make a change, or we get to a place where we are overwhelmed with feelings of stress and fear about a situation that seems too intense or negative for our little hearts. Perhaps it’s something as simple as working a double shift two days in a row, for some of us it may be as serious as deciding whether or not to pursue a life changing surgical procedure. Whatever it is that you’re facing in life, it’s up to you to embrace this truth- that you are fully capable of completing the task at hand.
Maybe you’re being introduced to this idea for the first time, or maybe you are familiar with these ideas already. I’m curious to know how this post has challenged you to learn more about yourself, so hit me up on social media @kiruniverse or send an email to email@example.com to keep the conversation going!