It must be my imagination--at least I wish is was--but it seems that time is vanishing at an ever increasing rate. It’s like the more I accomplish, the more there is yet to be done. How disgusting it is to reach Friday, only to wish it was Monday because there is too much left on my “to do” list. And it can’t really be Friday, wasn’t it just Sunday? What a convoluted picture. But, I have a sneaky suspicion that many of you are nodding your heads in agreement. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the human services business--an unfortunate side effect of life!
I admit it, I have allowed the tyranny of necessity to overshadow and cloud my perspective, like a twisted, dirty piece of glass. Day in and day out, over and over, again and again, until... “gotcha”... it’s a routine. Bummer, habits are really hard to break! As Mark Twain wrote “What’s a body to do?”
I recently came upon the following quote. And it must have been destiny because I don’t look for quotes, especially from the 15th century. But this one grabbed me like a cold, wet hand in the dark, and begged my attention, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen,” Leonardo Da Vinci. That’s right, Mr. Renaissance man himself.
I am fascinated by Da Vinci’s remarks for several reasons. First, here it is almost 600 years latter and his sentiments are equally as true for today. Imagine that. Technology has changed (maybe exacerbating the problem) in the past 600 years, but not the human character! Second, Da Vinci is the man who perfected the art of “Aerial Perspective”, in essence revolutionizing the art world and influencing centuries of graphic design. What an apt analogy, really an axiom. We will lose perspective unless we stop what we are doing, and “go away, have a little relaxation,” so that when we return to our work our “judgment will be surer.” Only by distancing ourselves can we really get out of the fog, see clearly, and are thus able to make appropriate adjustments to move forward.
I don’t know who said it, I certainly don’t live it, but I really believe it is true, “the time to relax is when you don't have time for it.” I call this the “fog horn” effect. When we become so busy that we don’t see the fog, let alone hear the warning signal, that’s when we will hit the rocks and reefs waiting for us. When we are so busy that we think we don’t have time for Rest and Relaxation, that’s when the fog horn goes off! Wake up! Grab the helm! When the lives of others are at stake, is when we can ill afford to not heed the signals.
There is another perspective to this picture to consider. We can be overcome by a “tide of detail” which results in losing sight of the mission, the goals and the “why” of what we do. The more we become mired in a bog of minutia, the greater the risk of discouragement. Though extreme, a phrase from Milton’s Paradise Lost articulates this point, “Where peace and rest can never dwell, hope never comes.” If our lives are so consumed with activity, even if that activity is helping others, we effectively create an unhealthy environment which can stymie, if not destroy, hope. Peace and rest are necessary to spawn hope and vision. It’s like building a house. You can’t really see or appreciate what it is becoming until you stop the activity, stand back and look at the whole.
In 40 something years of working in human services, I have learned that most folks in our business are genuine in their motive and passion to help others. Unfortunately, inherent in that fervency is the tendency, or should I say, the trap of overindulgence. Balance is the key. We don’t want to become slothful, but neither do we want to ignore the fog horn and crash on the reef. So, heed the wisdom of one of our most creative and intelligent forerunners, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”