At Tescos in Kensington, you can now keep fit and shop at the same time. New trolleys can be programmed to make them harder to push, raising the heartbeat and exercising muscles in the legs, arms and stomach. The trolley handle tells you how fast your heart is beating just so you don’t literally shop till you drop. Tescos are waiting to discover the public reaction before investing in more new trolleys.
Killing two birds with one stone is a popular pastime today. It has even developed its own terminology – multi-tasking. Some learn, often of necessity, to do it extremely well but it does represent a trend which is a feature of our busy modern lifestyle. Trying to fit everything in, we get pulled in many different directions. We can lose ourselves in the plethora of different activities that occupy our days.
Jesus recommended that we focus on one thing in our lives - he said it should be to work for the kind of world God wants – and everything else would follow (Matthew 6.33). Different people will choose different priorities but to have a guiding purpose that motivates the wide variety of occupations we engage in can bring a unity and more relaxed harmony to our lives.
Perhaps today we might reflect on what underlying direction we’d like our lives to be going in. The process might suggest there are some things we could usefully stop doing, perhaps temporarily, though looking after our health and keeping the kitchen stocked may not be among them. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll help give our lives focus in a world where otherwise there’s a danger we will just keep running till we drop.
Madeleine Albright recalls a to-do list from her time as the US Ambassador to the United Nations: 1) Call King Hussein; 2) Call Foreign Minister Moussa; 3) Prepare for China meeting; 4) Buy non-fat yoghurt. The son of Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s new High Commissioner to Britain, says that his most vivid memory of his mother is watching her boiling an egg while simultaneously deconstructing Marx.
These women have learnt to live with the constant challenge of holding together different areas of their lives. For most of us, our work or other activities outside the home take place in the context of more private responsibility and joys. There are times in our lives when it is appropriate that either home or work take precedence but normally we aim for a healthy balance between the two.
Let’s today celebrate the range of activities and responsibilities in which we'll be involved and check that, insofar as it’s up to us, we’ve got the balance about right.
Sonic hedgehog (shh) and tiggywinkle (twhh) are the names given to two genes which cause beneficial but destructive changes in cavefish embryos. Not in all fish of that species, only in those which live in deep, lightless caves off the Mexican coast. Being able to see would be no use to them in the pitch darkness and so, the genes order the destruction of the eyes’ lens at an early stage of their development. By being born blind, the cavefish does not waste energy or brainpower on completely useless eyesight.
Many people are aware of a tendency to spend time on unproductive activity. Almost without us realising it, we get caught up in energy-consuming tasks which don’t repay the effort we put into them. Sometimes there are reasons why they are worth continuing with but often habit, or an inability to see a way to stop, traps us.
Human beings are not equipped, as the cavefish are, with genes which will automatically direct energy towards constructive activity. What we have got are minds capable of finding imaginative ways of disentangling ourselves from useless tasks, and wills with the determination to do it. Let’s today check that we’re not wasting valuable energy and if we are, develop ways of redirecting it to something more creative.