“In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3
Everyday, I walk Joey. He trots around the neighborhood smelling every bush and poll as if it was the first time. We walk at least twice a day and there are about 3 or 4 different routes we take. It’s an established routine and while sometimes it feels like an inconvenience, I know it’s good for me.
Medical doctors, psychiatrists, and numerous scientific studies all support the claim that routines are good for us. The structure gives us a sense of security. The familiarity is reassuring. Routines give us a sense accomplishment and they can reinforce other important health factors like sleep and eating habits.
It seems to me that simple tasks are increasingly being automated or outsourced. It feels as though we, as a culture, cannot be bothered with mundane tasks because we are too busy, have more important things to do, or simply don’t want to be bothered. This is unfortunate because there is a gift in the routine and in the mundane.
When I am busy, I can become annoyed that I have to walk the dog, until of course I actually go out and do it. It creates a space wherein I can be reminded of life beyond my list. Most of the time, walking Joey doesn’t lead to an epiphany. The only adventure to be found is how to avoid the big dogs that get Joey riled up. Most of the time, it’s fairly boring and also, a bit refreshing.
The fascinating thing about routine tasks is that they usual center on care. Most of the mundane habits we have are ways we take care of ourselves (eg hygiene, gym, etc) or ways we take care of others (eg making meals for the family, taking care of a pet, etc). Routine is one of the ways we show we care; it’s one of the ways we live love. This is part of the reason why I get concerned when we decide to make our lives more efficient by automating or outsourcing routines. Expressions of care (be it caring for others or caring for ourselves) can be quite inefficient, but they are vital and they need to take place daily.
Christians who enter into a monastic tradition find that the life of a monk is all about routine. The monastic schedule created hundreds of years ago continues to exist today. While it may vary slightly between monastic orders, it is generally structured around the same repetitive tasks: prayer, meals, worship, work, rest. You could say that the entire daily schedule is about care for one’s soul, care for others, care for the earth (much of the work is agrarian in nature). Or as the Benedictine tradition says, it is in the routine that we find God.