Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Money for Nothing

It all began with the book, The Love of Impermanent Things, by Mary Rose O’Reilley. This is a stunning book. It is really a series of small essays reflecting on life and its meaning drawing from a wide variety of spiritual sources. It was this section, however, that jumped out at me. O’Reilley is writing about the advice of a spiritual mentor and nun.

“Her last, most astonishing advice to me was, “Why don’t you goof-off and try getting something for nothing?” What kind of a koan is that for a disciplined person?”

I wasn’t looking for a koan; I don’t need a new one, but this one struck me. I pride myself in the hearty American values of productivity and the mantra that idle hands signal an idle mind. So reading this, I thought, perhaps these are words for me.

Now before I could embrace them - and even now I don’t fully embrace them, just test them out at times - I had to spend a long time singing the song by the Dire Straights, or as they spell it Straits, Money for Nothing. This song features that brilliant line, “Money for nothing and your chicks for free.” I sing that to myself as the musical accompaniment of this koan.

I tested it for the first time on Sunday and Monday. I did really nothing. Yes, I prepared for the seder, but I have been woefully behind and unprepared for my classes for the past two days. I’ve taken money for nothing and my chicks for free. It’s been great.

I will catch up in the next four or five days, but goofing off and trying to get something for nothing is something that I’m thinking about more, playing with even. Perhaps there are lessons in there that are important for me. Perhaps there is more than discipline and productivity. Just perhaps.

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