…High on a hill or tall mountain. This has been a place of significant renewal to me in the 62 years of my life.
I still remember the joy of being an adolescent, alone high on the hill overlooking my hometown of Whittier, California. I could see my town, of course, but also the whole Los Angeles basin and, on a clear day, the sun reflecting off the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island on the horizon. The time spent there in the silence refreshed my soul. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was strengthening the social dimension of my integrated life.
What, you say? How can being alone strengthen me as a social being?
Let’s take a fresh look at how we define this important part of our integrated life:
…our friendships…leisure…play…time off…vacations…renewal…
…some fun and sabbaticals from the pressures of life…
The people with whom we spend time and associate apart from our families and vocational lives are, indeed, a crucial part of the social dimension of our lives. But don’t miss two important words in the definition: “renewal” and “sabbatical”.
Here’s how three important “distance mentors” to me (George and Charles Merriam and Noah Webster) describe the first term:
Renewal: the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again
And, the second:
Sabbatical: a break or change from a normal routine
All we who belong to the human race feel the innate pull to renewal, to breaks in routine, to activity (or non-activity) that will allow us to be made fresh and strong again. As Christians, we believe our Creator designed this yearn into us.
Every time I climb down from a high place on earth I am new, fresh and strong again, even though my physical body may experience fatigue from the trip. I have broken my routine in a way that refreshes me; I have renewed my mind, my soul.
Evaluating Our Renewal
Here are a few short yes/no questions to help us identify our leisure activities and how well they play the part of strengthening the social dimension of our lives:
- Are most of our free moments spent with co-workers, clients or vendors, say with business golf outings or time on the office softball team?
- Are they consumed with running our children from sport to sport or hobby to hobby?
- Do we see activities on which we spend our leisure time as a duty we owe others?
- When finished, do we dread returning to our normal activity because of fatigue or time pressure? Do we need a vacation to recover from our vacations?
If any of these describe the bulk of our leisure activity, we may be neglecting the “renewal” and “sabbatical” part of our social dimension.
Some additional questions:
- In our leisure breaks, are we engaging with people or activities we rarely engage with in the normal course of our life? Do they spur us to think or do things that stretch our intellect, emotions or physical body?
- Has the activity used a part of our 8-dimensional self that has been dormant for a while?
- Do we see these activities as a joy and refreshment?
- When finished, do we feel renewed in spirit, mind, soul, and body?
If we can give an honest “yes” to most of these questions, we have renewal right.
Let’s return to the top of the blog post. Renewal is possible in a solitary activity (and I believe some solitary activity is necessary for real renewal). Of course, if I spend all of my “social” time alone, I am neglecting the other very important aspects of the social dimension. My talented wife, an exceptional friend to many, prevents me from this neglect.
Remember this, too: “rest” does not necessarily mean “inert.” When I was in college, I spent 3-4 weekends each winter on the Colorado ski slopes. I am not a very good skier, so I returned from those trips physically exhausted, with muscles not used for a while complaining about abuse. But, as my normal frenetic routine skewed toward intellect, time pressures, and stresses of academic deadlines, the physical release with a few close friends on the ski slopes was a very significant time of renewal for me. I returned refreshed in spirit, mind and soul, if not body, and was ready to attack the next period of study.
Some closing questions for you as you evaluate your own practice of renewal and sabbatical:
- What people or activities most make you feel refreshed and renewed after you engage with them?
- When was the last time you spent a significant amount of time in such engagement?
- What do you need to do right now—this week—to renew and refresh your 8-dimensional self?
- What one or two steps will you take today to get started?
We would love to hear about how you renew yourself in the comments section below.