ARMCHAIR RESTLESSNESS

“Never have I been able to settle in life. Always seated askew, as if on the arm of a chair; ready to get up, to leave.”

Andre Gide, Journals, July 14, 1930

 

Why did Andre Gide, the French author who penned the above quote, stipulate the exact day in his journal? He must have been bored to death. If he was visiting Phoenix on that July day I can understand why he might have been so restless. In the heat of that month I don’t only sit askew on an armchair ready to get up I actually jump up about every few minutes to do something, go somewhere or just change armchairs.

The Nobel Peace winner claims he doesn’t do well settling in life. I don’t think I have ever experienced being settled in my entire lifetime. I don’t blame it on my ADHD condition so much as a desire to keep moving, looking, or sensing; always thinking something fantastic will pop up around the corner at any moment. Is that so bad? That kind of busyness energizes me, gives me hope and keeps me sane. Well it tends to keep me rather lucid anyway but maybe not so by bystanders.

Right this moment I’m looking out my office window and watching city workers replacing a fifty-foot telephone pole in the front of our house. They have been out front for a couple of hours in the early morning just standing around and I’m thinking why don’t they just get on with it. I’m getting restless just watching them. That’s why I am no good for that kind of work. I would rush into it and risk having the pole slicing through a house.

OK, I walked out front and asked one of the workers why there are a bunch of them hanging around looking for so long to start the job holding clipboards. The guy smiled and replied “We play it safe because we don’t want to get fried!” I get it.

I was lucky to have served as a pastor. Clergy are responsible for coordinating dozens of endless activities and making boundless pastoral calls. They deal with relentless fiscal demands along with coming up with a term paper weekly for the pulpit, ready or not. I seldom sat for long on a chair in my office as I recall. There was little if any settling on the job.

If I had stayed in the aircraft industry as my first calling I would have been a nut case eventually. I will always remember an engineer working on his drawing board on a high stool. When he got drowsy he jammed a mechanical pencil into a soft rubber eraser and fall asleep. Whenever he dropped off the chair he would make a resounding boom. My hunch is he was one who managed to enjoy a settling life but risked having brain damage.

The angst jumped up a few notches when I retired but I have toned things down a bit by occasionally watching the Andie Griffith TV shows. I can often stay seated for those reruns. My hunch is Andre Gide might have remained seated during those shows. He may have fallen short on getting the Nobel Prize but he would have had the joy of watching Don Knotts, the zany comedian, who kept the shows energizing and lively.

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