“Summertime,” George Gershwin once famously wrote, “and the livin’ is easy.” His words come from a different day and a different place. They remind us of a time when much of everyday life simply closed down during the summer months and people were able to “vacate” their normal activities and responsibilities. In the days before air conditioning, people in the torrid Washington climate would often vacate their homes at night even when they weren’t away, choosing to sleep instead on a porch or in a park in the hope of getting just the slightest breeze. Many things—including most communication with the rest of our usual world—simply came to a stop, at least for a while.
That kind of life has long since disappeared in our culture and society. People talk today about being “wired” and “on,” not just during times of work and busy periods of life, but (in surely one of the most ominous expressions of the modern world) “24/7.” Communication is now instantaneous, and we have access to more information at our fingertips in seconds than our ancestors could ever accumulate in the course of their entire lives. In spite of (or perhaps because of) all the modern “conveniences,” the pace of life has speeded up in mathematical proportions in the past few decades. So, too, has the stress.
“The world,” Wordsworth once wrote in an infinitely simpler age, “is too much with us,” and, as a result, he observed, “we lay waste our powers.” Most of us would not want to undo all the achievements of technology and modern culture. We value the resources of the Internet, telecommunication, and all the other wizardry now at hand. We depend on all of our electronic and wireless resources. But most of us need to at least try from time to time to step back from all the frenzy that technology represents and make the effort to regain a sense of perspective and clarity. By virtue of being 21st Century citizens, the gift of such moments of quiet, reflection, and peace could be both restorative and transformative.
In spite of the frenetic pace that surrounds us, summer may still be a time when we can steal that extra time to reflect, not just on what we do, but on who we are—and to Whom we really belong. While the world around us tries to put the emphasis on summer as a time of recreation, adventure, and busyness, we might try to make it, as well, a time of re-creation, discovering once more, and much more deeply, what our lives and our witness as God’s children are truly all about.
Photo: “Gibraltar–The Rock in Summertime” by Belissarius, 2006.