Detox from Do-Do
by Christopher West
I just noticed in typing the above title that there’s a double meaning here. I meant it first as a statement about the toxic nature of our Western production-oriented-always-doing (“do-do”) mentality. But it’s also true to say that this mentality is a load of doo-doo.
I sat in last week on a colleague’s class at the Theology of the Body Institute: “Theology of the Body and Art: The Way of Beauty” taught by Bill Donaghy. He stressed our need for “detox” from our constant need to “do something” and helped us enter in to what it means to be a contemplative— someone who has slowed down enough and quieted himself enough to see and hear and smell and taste and touch the beauty all around him. And, more importantly, to decipher its meaning.
Bill shared the words of a German author who epitomized the “do-do” mentality as follows: “Man is here to act. Only as a being in action does he fulfill his natural vocation. Contemplative natures … are dead persons who miss the meaning of life … only deeds and perpetual activity give meaning to life…. From this proceeds the divine right of destroying all who are inert.”
Listen to Sam Phillips’ “Don’t Do Anything” and try this idea on for size: God loves us when we don’t to anything. When we’re not fabulous. Not gorgeous or clever or productive. Listen to the song and let it sink in. Do you believe it?
As Bill pointed out, the exact antithesis to this mentality comes from another German author who wrote that “man comes in the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts. He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift.” This “means precisely that for his ‘salvation’ man is meant to rely on receiving. Activity that makes itself into an absolute, that aims at achieving humanity by its own efforts alone, is in contradiction with man’s being.”
One of these statements has the aroma of, ah, diabolic do(o)-do(o). The other has the aroma of divine life. The former was written by Adolf Hitler, the latter by Pope Benedict XVI.
Today, right now if you can, slow down. Stop. Enjoy that cup of coffee on your desk a little bit more. Breathe in its aroma. Taste it a little more deliberately. It’s a gift. Receive it. Or take a walk, a slow walk, and receive the sensory overload of nature’s sights, sounds and smells as the gift that it is.
This commentary originally appeared on Christopher West’s blog (CorProject.com). It is reprinted here with permission. Christopher West is a renowned educator, best-selling author, cultural commentator, and popular theologian who specializes in making the dense scholarship of the late Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body accessible to a wide audience. As founder of The Cor Project, he leads a global outreach devoted to cultural renewal through a dynamic and fresh proclamation of the Gospel. West has been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on the Theology of the Body and sexual ethics since the late 1990s. Since 2004, he has served on the faculty of the Theology of the Body Institute and his courses continue to draw clergy, religious, and lay people from around the world.