There aren’t many reality TV shows that I will watch. I don’t care what housewives in Some City, USA are doing. I am not captivated by barns full of old stuff and the people who sort through them to find that one special nugget of nostalgia to purchase and re-sell. Survivalists and their primitive experiences with bugs, snakes and rodents bring me to the brink of a full-blown panic attack. And, please, don’t get me started on pawn shops, car dealerships, communal living, stage moms or the plethora of lives that have been hooked up to a video camera, directed and edited into some crazy series intended to show us how other people supposedly live.
That said, I love contest shows about fashion or food with weekly eliminations. Give me a season of Project Runway or MasterChef and I am glued to my corner of the couch. The contestants scurry around their respective workrooms creating fabulous outfits or tantalizing meals challenging the viewer to emulate a style or stretch their culinary abilities. Both shows tease the viewer with clips from interviews with the contenders. Comments can be just plain snarky while others seem to be genuinely caring – creating villains and heroes to confuse the audience. A beautiful dress or fabulous meal are nothing less than ugly when the viewer has been guided into thinking the person responsible for it is despicable.
Then…there are the judges. Who picks these people and on what level do they feel it is appropriate to act like out of control bullies when they dislike something? Their caustic comments about the work of an aspiring designer or chef – complete with smug expressions that give an air of haughty exclusivity – are inappropriate and unnecessary. However, the more they vilify an underling, the more bound to the show we become.
A unique challenge is presented each week. Sometimes it seems ridiculous – like designing an evening gown out of disposable diapers or making a 3-course gourmet meal featuring peanut butter, brussel sprouts and bacon. I suppose, given enough time, either is genuinely possible. Yet, time is the critical insufficient factor, heightening the intrigue as the clock mercilessly advances. At some point designers are sent to the runway with their creations whether a garment is finished or not. Chefs are given a countdown, then told to raise their hands in the air with the intention that everyone stop at once, however, the effect makes one think that they are indeed surrendering their magnificent meals to the scrutiny of the judges. Yes, the same pretentious group mentioned above. I sidebar – but, there truly is a way to guide and mentor someone without kicking their knees out from under them.
Time…and the race against it…
A recent movie featured a restaurant committed to French cooking. Food was prepared slowly – allowing flavors to bloom into something unexpected and magnificent placing the establishment on a world-class list. Trips to the market procured the freshest, finest and, at times, exotic ingredients. A view of the dining room showed guests dressed for a special evening slowly sipping cocktails, wine, and coffee while savoring course after course. Not a cell phone was in sight. No one looked stressed or anxious for the meal to be over.
Time…and the beauty of it…
So much of our lives are spent like the fashion and cooking reality shows. We race to complete tasks simply to get them done, as if finishing is the most important achievable factor forcing the value of creativity to become secondary. Our lives turn us into human pinballs bouncing and ricocheting off deadlines that are perceived to control us. Our culture has become captivated with the concept that success is the result of abundant productivity. Sleep, rest, and leisure become overrated. We strive to do more in less time than any generation before us. As a result, we must also claim an abundance of stress related illnesses ranging from physical complaints to emotional, spiritual and relational instabilities.
Time…and our inability to appreciate and respect it…
A Buddhist belief is that if you don’t have 30 minutes to meditate, you must meditate for an hour. The great religions of the world all have deep roots in the need for prayer as a means to refocus and center our lives and attitudes. Yet, we tend to ignore these practices as we spin out of control, claiming that there isn’t time to add yet another ‘to do’ to our list of potential accomplishments for the day. We are surrounded with expectations from family, friends, jobs, the media, and a plethora of forces that claim a piece of us – and our time.
Time…and the things that we let claim it…
The Apostle Paul reiterated the importance of prayer in his letters to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians. Somehow, we have twisted his teaching to mean that we can and should ask God to make the world what we want it to be through our petitions and it will work as long as we approach God with the right measure of adoration and a dab of humble thankfulness.
In reality, I believe Paul was trying to guide the young church toward prayer in a deeper, meditative sense. Prayer, when approached as a centering, meditative practice will calm the chaos in our lives. No, it doesn’t change the events around us as they unfold. Rather, prayer transforms us and, changing our reaction to life. Meditative prayer forces us to pause long enough to still our aching hearts and jumbled brains so that we might recognize the presence of all that is good woven throughout any given situation. In seeing the presence of that goodness, we are able to adjust our attitudes and behaviors to live in and through the stuff of life with compassion. We become true servants of God as we act as Gods eyes, hands and heart in the muck of the world.
Honestly, in a world as crazy as the one we find ourselves living in, we don’t have time not to pray…to meditate on what is right and good and true…to spend time letting all that is goodness – the thing we call God – guide as we navigate the mine fields that are ever in front of us.