Monday, November 2, 2009
Habits of the Heart
Today I started reading Robert Bellah’s classic book Habits of the Heart for my sociology class; I was just a kid when it came out, and I “should” have read it somewhere along the line (see previous post), but for one reason or another I never did. Anyway, it deals with how Americans understand themselves and pursue what they understand to be worthwhile in life, and the first person interviewed, Brian, was a successful businessman who made it to the top at the expense of a relationship with his family, working sixty-five-plus hours per week. The collapse of what he thought his world actually was led him to a new attitude about work; as he puts it, “Now I just kind of flip the bird and walk out. My family life is more important than that, and the work will wait, I have learned.” My tendency has been to follow Brian’s pattern (without making big money, of course): “Perhaps it was success. Perhaps it was fear of failure, but I was extremely success-oriented, to the point where everything would be sacrificed for the job, the career, the company.” Boy, does that hit close to home. I always have a bad habit of breaking my neck trying to do work to the umpteenth degree; despite all the wise words I have about how my community is too workaholic, about how we don’t know what our identity is when we aren’t in active ministry, boy, have I felt that one this year. I’ve always been able to justify working like a fool by saying that one reason to be in religious life is to be able to work like crazy without depriving a wife and kids of their husband and father, but the treads have worn pretty thin on that line. One of my formation directors taught us in the novitiate, “The charism of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart is to work your ass off.” Period. In that, I am a true Brother of the Sacred Heart, and I’m tired of it. I want my life back. I don’t blame my work settings: no one has put this kind of expectation on me but me, but I just don't want that for my life anymore. In particular, prayer is an aspect of my life that usually suffers first, and I suspect that is common among members of apostolic orders. I have never considered myself a terribly good pray-er, so it has not taken much psychological energy to push off prayer because I had so much work to do. Grateful though I am for community prayer, it has become a sort of justification: no matter whether I pray at other times or not, I “have to” be in there at those scheduled times, so I can keep on telling myself that’s enough. That's all I've got for today; I won’t quite “flip the bird” to my work or this blog, but I can do so to the attitude that wants to throw a few shreds of real life in at the end of work.