Today I was thinking about how inconvenient it is that we have to take recesses. From anything. The human machine is not a very efficient one.
I’ve been studying for my History of Christianity final, and after several hours of outlining and reading, I had to break up the monotony. (I fled to my usual refuge in times of academic pain: P.D. James.)
I had to deal with the reality that a change of pace is necessary to the continued porosity of my brain, not to mention my general outlook. After you’ve outlined eight or so full-length essay questions which may or may not be on the final, your perspective on life is not what it should be. It’s for this reason that trivial things like foosball and one liners exist. We need them to make the weighty aspects of life (like basketball and essays) more bearable.
The funny thing is, I can imagine a life where breaks are not necessary, and where doing the same, serious thing for a long period of time is not only possible, but exciting. For example, I could see myself settling down and writing a novel in one sitting. Why not? If my back didn’t start aching, and apartment-claustrophobia didn’t set in, writing my first book might be accomplished in, say, 4 months? (I’m a fast writer.) Not only would the style be seamless, the writing would probably get better and come easier as it went along.
Or think of something more active. Like basketball. I could easily see myself playing basketball for two or three weeks at a time. During week one, as I shook off the rust, I would settle for simple chest passes and mid-range jump shots. Week two would see me stepping back to nail threes and slashing inside for lay-ups as I regained my inside-outside game. I’d also drop some shiny dimes. By week three I would be doing whatever I wanted, bouncing passes off opposing players—the dominant, complete player, that I occasionally am for ten-minute stretches. After three weeks or so, there would have been so many highlight-reel plays compiled that all of the players would want to grab some icy drinks and talk trash for awhile. Say another seven to ten days.
By that time, I might be in the mood to kick back and do a little reading. I would lay in a supply of dark coffee beans, and get started on my reading list. The Brothers Karamazov (for the second time) would go down first, followed by the rest of Augustine’s Confessions (I’ve only read the first two “books”). Next I’d devour For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway, and then George MacDonald’s Curdie books to get my spirits back up. In the interests of more contemporary literature, I’d finally get around to reading Ravi Zacharias’ The Real Face of Atheism and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. For about 8 days, the only sound would be the regular flipping of pages, interrupted every several hours by the noise of coffee beans getting ground up.
By then, Lindsay and I would want to get out of the house. We would pack a few things and go hiking for a couple years, hitting the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Outback, and maybe the Amazon jungle for good measure.
Yeah, I’d have many uses for a more efficient human being. What becomes obvious is that time would have to become more efficient as well. There would have to be more of it. Unlimited supplies, actually. If I had the ability to function flawlessly, I would need eternity to do it in. Eighty years or so would be a laughable tenure for an indestructible, indefatigable body.
As final exams reveal the cracks in my powers of concentration, the appeal of heaven is growing all the time. No more restrictions on how long we can do worthwhile things. No more “stepping away” from dense theology to “unwind” with an action / adventure movie. No more unwinding at all. When we move from one pastime to the next, we will do so because we are ready. Finally, we will have bodies that can pursue really good things indefinitely.
When I arrive in heaven, maybe I will spend a century or so just starting to get acquainted with Jesus. More likely, whatever else I do, the “getting acquainted” phase will be going on all the time. That will never really end.