In Praise of Idleness

Last month I preached at the opening of the year service at Kings College London. Kings College London is one of the top universities in the world having influenced many of the advances that shape modern life, such as: the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

It is therefore fair to say that it is an institution concerned with knowledge, with acquiring it and advancing it – but what of wisdom?

Many people mistake knowledge for wisdom. And although they are they are intimately related they are quite different. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information. Wisdom is the synthesis of knowledge and experiences giving insights that deepen one’s understanding of relationships and even the meaning of life.

The book of Job in the bible is the story of a devout man with tragedy hovering over him. When the book opens, we notice Job is about to lose everything — children, property and wealth, good name and even his health. And there is Job in the mist of his struggles and he asks where can wisdom be found?

Job knows that despite all of our achievements and abilities, we cannot answer Job’s great question about the meaning and purpose of the righteous person who suffers but for him there is discernible in this world (cf. 28:22). A world that reflects something of the wisdom of God.

Isaac Watts’s puts into verse in his hymn

He formed the stars, those heavenly flames,
He counts their numbers, calls their names;
His wisdom’s vast, and knows no bound,
A deep where all our thoughts are drowned.

For the Christian to find the wisdom of God we need to spend time with him to abide with him. How often do we rush on and not abide and therefore should we be surprised when we struggle to comprehend God and his wisdom?  And that’s where Idleness comes in.

Wisdom it has been suggested only comes about when we find time not just to gain knowledge but to find idleness. Oliver Burkeman speaking on Radio 4 16th September 2106 highlighted a recent Microsoft survey which shows 58% of office workers only have 15-30 mins thinking a day and 30% do not thinking at all.

Burkeman encouraged us to re find idleness in the true tradition of the contemplative – finding time for reflection, for freedom of thought and creative wonder finding the Newton moment under the apple tree. Maybe along with knowledge we should be re teaching the art of idleness – seeking not just knowledge but encouraging the creative art of its application. And maybe we will not only find the Newton apple moment but find the wisdom of God.



About Sarah Mullally

If you wanted a blog run by an experienced blogger look elsewhere - I am a beginner. I am a mum, Bishop, Dame and poor potter - welcome.
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