A Feature Review of
Good Busy: Productivity, Procrastination, and the Endless Pursuit of Balance
Julia Scatliff O’Grady
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
Time is man’s greatest challenge… Space is exposed to our will; we may shape and change things in space as we please. Time, however, is beyond our reach, beyond our power. It is both near and far, intrinsic to all experience and transcending all experience.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel, from The Sabbath
One of the greatest challenges of writing a book on the idea of Slow Church is the straining to articulate our human relation to time, confessing our deep struggles to conquer it, and as Heschel observes in the above words, the ways that it ultimately eludes our control. If we cannot conquer time, then our task is simply to make our peace with it (Heschel uses the language of “sanctifying” time, making it holy).
The creation story of Genesis provides for us an image of a God who lives in rhythms of work and rest. We cannot understand the Sabbath without a rich understanding of our belonging to a god who works. In the vision of Christian faithfulness that we are calling Slow Church, we name the pathologies in Western Culture around our understandings of work, particularly our tendencies toward both overworking and avoiding certain kinds of work that we deem difficult or beneath us. Following the creation story, we need a concept of time that values both good, hard work and Sabbath rests, in which we learn to trust in the providence of God and to bear witness to the liberating reign of God on earth as it is in heaven.
As my puny imagination has been struggling to wrap its stiff fingers around what it might mean – in practical, everyday terms – to make our peace with time, I happened to stumble upon the delightful little book Good Busy: Productivity, Procrastination, and the Endless Pursuit of Balance by Julia Scatliff O’Grady. Good… Busy… Yes, that’s it! O’Grady holds in delicate tension our need to be doing good, diligent work and at the same time to live gracefully and peacefully within the time that we are given. This is a wise book that offers “Ten Ideas About a Good Busy.” I love her restraint in not offering tricks or techniques, but merely ideas – ideas the can be experimented with, as we seek to make peace with time amidst all the vast particularities of our own personalities, economics, careers and situations. O’Grady puts it this way: “After a while, I came to terms with the reality that having a better relationship with time does not require shortcuts or systems. Instead it requires a patient practice of trial and error and taking advantage of opportunities for reflection” (3).