LeisureWilliam Henry DaviesWhat is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
In 1990 the Associated Press published a story about a basset hound named Tattoo. Somehow, Tattoo got his leash caught in the door of a vehicle and when the vehicle started to move Tattoo wound up jogging along beside the car, eventually running for his life! 1
That’s how it starts. Work, life, commitments… they start off at a reasonable pace. But soon we are running for our lives, hoping we won’t fall behind. The quiet contentment of staring like a cow or a sheep is forgotten in the press; and, often we are not even pressing forward, just hoping to keep up.It’s not a healthy way to live. The treadmill of constant busyness distracts us and becomes a yoke of desperate oppression; of mundane, and unacknowledged suffering.Nobody consciously chooses to live that way. But there is something about doing, and striving, and even rushing which at least gives the illusion of achievement. Here is what existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said:
“… For this press of busyness is like a charm… its power swells… it reaches out…” He is saying that our preoccupation with doing something sort of puts a spell on us. It keeps us from seeing ourselves as we are. “In the press of busyness, there is neither time nor quiet to win the transparency that is indispensable if a man is to come to understand himself…” he said. 2
Kierkegaard goes on to say that a person with a mirror can look at themselves, and even see themselves clearly. But if they don’t stand still they won’t be able to see themselves at all. It’ll all be a blur. It’s not that they don’t have the power to see themselves, they do. It’s that they are blinded by busyness. And, really, haven’t we all been there?
But there is a saint who can help!
Saint Expidito, or Expeditus, can help when you need things to be done quickly.
The story is that Expeditus was a Roman centurion in Armenia. When he converted to Christianity a crow came to him and encouraged him to wait until tomorrow. Expidito killed the bird and said, “I’ll be a Christian today!” That is why his icon shows a bird at his feet and the bird is saying, “cras,” tomorrow; and there is a cross in his raised arm, and on the cross it says, “hodie,” today.
It has been suggested that “Expeditus” is a misreading of “Elpidius,” which is the name of another saint, a fourth-century Cappodician who spent 20 years in a cave.
“Expeditus” is also Latin for a soldier who doesn’t have a pack, and if you look at his statue you can see that Expeditus has taken off his sword too. But, it also means that instead of being a person, Expeditus may be a reference to the profession of an unknown person.
Still other stories tell of unidentified relics arriving in boxes marked “Expedite,” thus the saint inside was named after the postal instructions. There are stories of this happening in both France and the USA.
This all makes the cult of Expedito a little shaky, but Expedito has a following. People in Turin, Italy had begun to turn to him by the Middle Ages, and today he is venerated in Europe, and Latin America, especially Brazil. He is certainly an attractive saint for busy people, people who absolutely, positively, have to have it done today!
Whether Expidito was a real person, or the saint we need to be real, he reminds us that there is divine help for our hectic and busy lives.
Leisure matters. Standing and staring like the cows is surely one of the most important things we can do. It creates an open space in which God can unfold in just the way she has always dreamed. This is the Christian’s real happiness, to provide a space for the unfolding, a platform for love, the body that allows eternity to move in the world.
Ask Expidito to help. Then go stand and stare…
1 – “Pedalin’ Pup.” <i>Google News</i>. Observer Publishing Company, 10 Mar. 1990. Web. 19 Apr. 2015
2 – Kierkegaard, Søren. “Barriers to Willing One Thing: Commitment to a Certain Degree.” <i>Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing</i>. Ebook ed. Start LLC, 2012. Print.
In this little book Kierkegaard is talking about how we loose out on happiness because we are preoccupied with escapism.