Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why Do We Love Vacations?

This coming Friday I will begin a vacation that will include all of Thanksgiving week. As you can imagine, I am chomping at the bit for it to begin. Why are we so eager for vacations? It's not like my life is so horrible that I feel a need to escape it. Yes, I sometimes get weary of it's demands but, in general, I have a nice life. Most of my vacations are not that exciting. They are often just a break from my usual schedule. Maybe we like vacations because they give us the illusion of freedom. We schedule time away from our normal commitments so we are "free" to do as we please. Some of us long for time off to escape the boredom of our normal, and seemingly unchanging, routines. On the flip side, some people I know who are retired complain of being busier now than ever while others are sometimes bored with all their freedom. Most of us are restless souls. We are never completely happy and we often long for something that we cannot actually name. I believe our restlessness and our longing are a form of spiritual emptiness. Even though I try to be a spiritual person, I, too, sometimes feel restless and empty. I certainly have my moments where all of life seems good and my soul is joyful. Because I am human, these moments are sometimes balanced with restlessness, feelings of emptiness, and boredom with life. In these moments I often think of the words of St. Augustine. He said, "Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in you"! I guess it is my wonder about the truth of these words that keeps me on the spiritual path. I do not like to feel restless, empty, or bored. When I do, I don't blame life. I look within and wonder why I feel like this. Sometimes, when you feel like this, it is time for a break in your life. It is time to get out of your normal routine, take some time off, have some fun, and renew yourself. This is why we love vacations. Renewal and rest feels good!

When a man becomes a monk, one of the vows he takes is stability. This means that the monk commits himself to a particular group of people and to a particular place. Unless there is a special reason or a need for him elsewhere, the monk will generally live his entire life in the same place and with the same people who persevere with him. Stability is a difficult concept in a culture where 50% of all marriages fail and everyone seems to be on the move. I think what stability might ask of us is to think beyond our own needs. Stability might be challenging us about our own restlessness. Why are so many people unrooted? Why are so many more like tumbleweeds than oak trees? Why are we so reluctant to plant ourselves and take deep root?

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