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Monotony Is the Spice of Life

An excerpt from "40/40 Vision: Clarifying Your Mission in Midlife."
Monotony Is the Spice of Life
Image: Ales Krivec / Unsplash

For every ten people who love the cycles of nature, at least one hates them. To most people, a sunrise offers quiet moments of solitude and an inherent promise: it’s a brand-new day that’s never been lived before. Similarly, a sunset throws a splash of color on our workday, happily ending our activities and signaling a time to rest. And tomorrow we’ll get to do it all again.

But Qohelet, the author of Ecclesiastes, seems to have no such optimism. To him, a sunrise signals another day in the salt mines. A sunset grimly signals encroaching death. The very repetitiveness of it is oppressive. His is a life of lather, rinse, repeat.

Somewhere in the vicinity of midlife, we come to the place where we can relate. The rhythms that once coordinated our lives now tyrannize them. Life can feel like the same stinking things, one after the other.

Some years ago, the staff of my (Greg’s) church shared our Myers–Briggs profiles. Each profile comes with a wealth of descriptors and explanations, including a short catchphrase. I (Greg) am an ENTP (“Extroverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving”). The catchphrase for my type is, “One adventure after another.” Bingo. The materials went on to explain that my type is the least likely to want to do the same thing the same way. That resonates too. Something in my very DNA craves novelty. My philosophy: If it ain’t broke, break it; at least you’ll have a new problem to solve.

But here’s where we get it wrong. We consider monotony akin to death and variety the essence of life. The brilliant G. K. Chesterton saw things differently:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore ...
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