The Power Of The Pause: Reflections on Friedman’s “Thank You For Being Late”

Copy of Book Review_This post is the second in an extended review/reflection on Tom Friedman’s Thank You For Being Late.  See the first post for an introduction and index to the series

Who has time to pause?  Our era is characterized by exponential change, rapid growth, and a dizzying array of competitive options for our attention.  Tom Friedman’s Thank You For Being Late is, in part, a tour of these forces of change.

But Friedman begins his book with a story about pausing.  One morning, one of his breakfast appointments was 15 minutes late.  Said appointment came in breathless and apologetic.  Friedman said, “No, thank you for being late.”  Rather than checking his cell phone, Friedman had taken the time to mentally work out a couple of article ideas.  He realized in that moment that we all need permission to pause.

The pause is a powerful thing.  Dov Siedman, CEO of LRN, says that the power to pause is what can keep us from making rash and harmful decisions (see Siedman’s article: “Giving Pause: How A Small Break Can Inspire Big Results”).  Friedman quotes Siedman at length:

“When you press the pause button on a machine, it stops.  But when you press the pause button on human beings, they start. You start to reflect, you start to rethink your assumptions, you start to reimagine what is possible and, most importantly, you start to reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs.  Once you’ve done that, you can begin to re-imagine a better path.”

Friedman and Siedman identify a deep truth of human nature: We are not made for relentless activity.

God built into the week a day of rest – not a bad pattern.  What would it look like if we actually took one day in seven to cease from our labors – not just our employment, but our labors.  What if we took one day in seven to spend time with friends, to sing songs, and to think inspiring thoughts? What if we took that day to focus on how we relate to God and how we relate to others?

Of course, we hold this in contrast with the opposite temptation to permanently withdraw (which I commented upon on Friday as part of my reflections on my recent Pilgrimage to the Holy Land).  Our challenge is to find rhythms of activity and rest, cycles of being nourished and expending energy.  Jesus demonstrates these healthy patterns in his regular times of prayer and more extended times of retreat and rest.  As we follow Christ, we can learn more of what it is to healthily integrate rest and activity.

But for too many people, the scales are tipped in favor of ceaseless activity, constant connectivity, and relentless need to “get stuff done.”

Friedman, in contrast, reminds us that we should never neglect the power of the pause.

How do you find moments of rest, refreshment, and reflection?  Do you practice Sabbath? Daily Prayer?  Something else?  Let us know in the comments below.

Russell

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