Instant messagingThe introductory blurb sounded very promising. As her lead-in to her article, “The Art of Multitasking”, (FAST COMPANY October 2002), Alison Overholt writes:

“Feeling overworked? Overwhelmed? The dirty little secret of the slow-growth economy is that most of us are busier than ever. We’re doing our jobs, plus the jobs of one or two gone-but-not-replaced colleagues—and doing it all with less support. How do we manage to stay sane in the face of such crazy demands?”

Overholt’s answer?

“Follow the savvy, reality-tested advice of some of the most effective executives we know.”

Excitedly, I read on. Four executives were featured. This is what they advised.

1.”If you don’t learn everything about how your technology works, you’ll never be able to make your technology work for you.”

2.”Voice mail, especially for urgent matters, makes more sense.”

3. “Instant messaging makes the difference for me”

4. “I plan everything; I put everyone to work.”

The fourth executive recommended planning and delegation. The other three pushed some form of technology.

Reading the article I had a number of responses.

Firstly, I felt cheated. I felt the article trivialized the seriousness of the issue. I didn’t need to pay good money for a magazine article that basically tells tired modern workers to plan their work, and to make good use of modern communication technology.

Secondly, the article demonstrated what Quentin Schultze calls “informationism”. In his book, Habits of the High-Tech Heart, Schultze explains:

“Our belief in the power of cybernetic systems to improve our world ultimately rests on the faith that our use of information technologies will make us better human beings. But moral questions about human life are beyond the interpretive scope of information technologies. The meaning of moral wisdom, in particular, cannot be captured through the binary wisdom of machine logic.”

Schultze’s warning must be heard and heeded. Christians should be at the forefront of those who cry out “the emperor has no clothes.”

Lives are being destroyed by the punishing pace of modern life. The causes are complex and many. Our salvation will not lie in the more effective use of information technology. The suggestion is laughable if not for the fact that so many buy into it.

The beginnings of an answer however, may lie in this quote by Dorothy Day, leader of the Catholic Worker Movement:

“I get so busy doing all the things I want to do, love doing, that I forget to ask myself the why of it all; and I forget to ask myself what might be, what ought be (sic), because I am in the midst of doing, doing”.

I am beginning to suspect that we shouldn’t be seeking a balanced life. Not only is it elusive, the balanced life is often a synonym for our wanting to “have our cake and eating it too.” We want to live our busy driven lives and enjoy God’s shalom at the same time.

Instead of pursuing a balanced life, we should be seeking an obedient life. We see this life exemplified to for us by Jesus. He walked so close to His Father that He was able to discern what His Father required of Him. And this He did. No one can accuse Jesus of being a slacker. Or an under performer. But while He was on earth, Jesus lived His life with the freedom that comes obedience. When it was time to do “overtime” He did it. When it was time to retreat to the mountains to pray, He did it. He lived an obedient life.

The apostle Paul in turn lived his life in obedience to his Lord. Sometimes this resulted in his being “more often overworked, more often imprisoned, scourged more severely, many a time face to face with death?” (2Corinthians 11: 23b REB), hardly a balanced life. But he lived a life of obedience.

Who will save us from the exhausted lives that we live? Not information technology. There has always been just one true Saviour. It is to Him we must turn. We need to ask Him what He wants us to do with our time, what He wants us to do with our lives. And when He tells us we must obey.

For some of us it may mean working harder. Or working at different things. For many of us, I suspect, obedience will mean being ruthless in cutting back and getting the rest we need.

Let us hear afresh the compassionate call of our Lord:

“Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11: 28-29 REB)