12/12: A Modest Proposal for Balance in Engagement

Emotions flicker, ideas and questions jump, one after another, reading the news and watching responses. Texts come in of prayer requests. Bills arrive to add dread to tomorrow. The news, the nation–it’s so much along with the ways our own specific family, our own little corner, are hurting and striving. We’re paying attention but we also have a creeping numbness. It all falls flat. Hashtag. New information. Point made. Article shared. Leader lost. Obituary written. Petition signed. Prayer offered. Day done.

A song pulls out tears for the children who lost their mother, like Jordan Anchondo, but one of many. We are empathetic and triggered; we are defensive and too still. Many of us are in a crisis of faith and identity. We call congress one week; we go off the grid the next. We are blocked by our own pride and mistakes and blindspots to say what needs to change or where our loyalties lie or how seemingly two opposing truths are held in tandem. It is increasingly hard for us to hold up our arms in faith that a battle is going to be won. We are human, and we are hurting.

I am human, and I’ve been hurting.

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For 12 days, I’m trying a new rhythm. For 12 days, for 12 hours each day, I’m signing off. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but if I look honestly at my day, I’m near a phone or computer near the beginning and near the end of my waking hours and I’m not just using them to text or calendar items. There is no 12-hour period of intentionally separating from social media and news. I’m not one to set goals and resolutions, let alone say them aloud, but the 12/12 plan is so reasonable, so measurable, I’m trying it. So many things lie on the horizon; so many things remain on the plate. I need to share with you how I am working out shalom in my own life as much as I am attempting to be an agent of it outside. 

For 12 hours each day, it might be good to turn our gaze and rest. It is less than a retreat, or a solitude day or a lifestyle, but it is more because we might actually do this. In 12 hours, we could sleep // markup a page of a book we are holding // lovingly massage lotion into the feet that have carried us so far // paste printed photos in a book like we did in the 90s // journal holding a pen and a notebook with an ear craned for no alert other than a bird’s interruption // do a crossword puzzle // take a bath // make a list // notice the texture of a tree // organize a pantry // write a letter to someone we miss // feel the strength of our muscles // sit in a chair outside // notice a new expression on a child’s face // stretch // and lie with our thoughts before falling asleep. Our body’s rhythm may appreciate the break; our quality of sleep may deepen.

Our other 12 hours may be more sound, more steady, and more shalom.

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Perhaps, like me, your heart and mind are so available, so responsible, so engaged, they need some cultivation. Like children full of energy, noise and promise, they would be relieved by some boundary, some change in the engagement load, some marker of time in our 24/7 pace of reform and review and respond.

No one is going to help me have balance and longevity more than me.

No body except this one is available to me to call, or speak, or hug, or march, or play, or kneel.

No day is guaranteed except today.

The off beat, the even count, the quarter rest—what would music be without them. 12 for 12.

For better activism, a more embodied life, a steadier offering of shalom.

Would any of you join me in some way?

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