These days I finish books about as often as I blog (not very much). One reason for the lack of both is busyness. This Spring Break I took some time and read "Crazy Buzy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem" by Kevin DeYong. Here are my takeaways:
Efficiency and punctuality are a part of functioning and showing respect in America, but they are not absolute virtues globally (and certainly not historically).
If you doubt the level of complexity and opportunity in America just visit the cereal aisle.
One way to combat the burden of busyness is to ensure your lifestyle has a "margin". That is, you plan to make room for the eventuality of the unplannable. To not do so is arrogance from a finite person.
A fallacy: "Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness. Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy." -Tim Kreider of the NYT
A primary cause of busyness is pride. Ask yourself: "Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?" I'm personally guilty of sacrificing the unconditional love of my family for the praise of those I'm less intimate with.
Jesus never ended a sermon with "do more or disobey". The original sin was not a lack of effort for God, it was an attempt to become Him.
This is not a permission to be apathetic. We should hurt for those who hurt. However, our circle of influence will always be smaller than our circle of concern.
Jesus spent 30 years in relative calm before a whirlwind 3 years of public ministry. So don't fear, Jesus (more than most pre-modern people) felt the weight you likely feel of busyness. He was constantly around the disciples, preached to thousands (without a microphone), was swamped by the sick, and sometimes even had to escape by boat. Yet, he certainly had to leave cities with more sick and hungry (literal and spiritual) to continue his larger Mission.
Busyness isn't a planning problem, it's a personal one. You must create a simple list of priorities or "unseized" time will flow towards our weakness and squeaky wheels. At the same time, we have to respect others' priorities and appreciate when we hear "no".
One of the most common American forms of busyness is Kindergarchy: Rule by children. "Children have more options and more opportunities, but parents have more worry and hassle. We have put unheard-of amounts of energy, time, and focus into our children. And yet, we assume their failures will almost certainly be our fault for not doing enough."
In his book, Selfish Reasons to Have Kids", economist Bryan Caplan (remember him?) cites numerous twin and adoption studies that conclude almost every desirable trait parents wish to pass down (health, happiness, intelligence, likeability) are more nature than nurture.
"One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child" -Leslie Leyland Fields
However, Bryan Caplan does show 3 traits that can be impacted by parenting: religion, politics, and appreciation of how they were parented. So, perhaps we should just try and instill those and not stress about the others so we can "have a better life and a bigger family".
Technology helps us do more of what we want. So, it can (and often does) feed into our desire for busyness. Easy half-solution: put your phone out reach and/or create full on technology Sabbath day(s).
We actually work less and rest more than we did (farming was hard), but the two are significantly less separated. We work while we play (and visa versa) much more. I may have tried to post this near 5pm so you wouldn't read it at work.
"You can borrow time (from the future), but you can't steal it. There is no such thing as a free coffee boost.
A not very sexy, but correct, concluding point: "If you have creativity, ambition, and love, you will be busy." But how busy?
HT to my brother in law Stephen for the book!