The proper rites

“‘It would have been better to come back at the same hour,’ said the fox. ‘If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .'” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince 

With everyone’s lives dramatically changed because of the pandemic, many are discussing – from joking (see tweets) to seriously weighing – how to give order and structure to our days in these unusual circumstances.

The lines quoted above from The Little Prince have come back to me lately. One of the most important aspects of having a schedule is having things to which we look forward. That’s why it’s good to schedule calls and phone visits and meetings, rather than being online and on calls nonstop. It’s good for us to know when something will start and when it will end, and to stick to what we plan. Furthermore, as a wise friend pointed out: It seems that our intentionality is what enables others to respond to us. Do we give our lives shape for others?

Another important reason to maintain order and structure is to steward our time well. We’re all responsible for the time we’ve been given and so it’s worth noticing how long we spend on certain activities and making sure that it’s a matter of intention and decision. 

The other aspect of time that I’ve been thinking about is seeing our lives within their broader context. The observance of Shabbat or Sunday, the celebration of holidays and feasts, the commemoration of birthdays and anniversaries… all of these help us to see our lives as stories within a bigger Story. And this way, and in this light, even days that seem quite mundane and unremarkable can be transformed into the existential feast of ‘life piled on life.’

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