Shall I, I wonder, ever find Peace at home in my own mind; Or must I to live at all, incur Daily the rumor, heat and stir That blind the heart and wag the tongue Of restless men I move among? Is this at every breath the toll To twist and fragmentize my soul? Must I before I sleep, survey Each night the rubbish of each day, Meet love in flickering light, hear long Dissonances in every song, Forsee the sun fade, the dark end Shatter the luster of each friend, Watch noisy disillusion dart Brusque through the quiet of my heart? And shall I only when I cease To be at all, be all at peace?
~ Irwin Edman
by Marlene J. Geary
Chair, Sunday Services Committee
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
Manchester, CT, USA
The quotation that immediately comes to mind when I think of restlessness is this:
“I was born in a crossfire hurricane, And I howled at my ma in the drivin’ rain.”
— From “Jumping Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones
Here are some other thoughts on restlessness from three diverse sources: Judaism, Buddhism and Humanism.
“One of the cornerstones of Judaism is the centrality of study. We come from a strong intellectual tradition that asks us to probe our world deeply. This daily command and legacy is perhaps the most significant way in which Judaism fights boredom. It asks us to study our universe carefully and engage it with our minds.” — From Jewish Study as Antidote in the book “Spiritual Wonder: Rediscovering the Wonder of Judaism”
~ Erica Brown.
“Uddhacca means distraction. It may also be called the unsettled state of mind. Just as minute particles of ash fly about when a stone is thrown into a heap of ash, the mind which cannot rest quickly on an object but flits about from object to object is said to be distracted. The mind arising together with uddhacca is called the distracted mind. When one is overpowered by distraction, one will become a drifter, a floater, a loafer, an aimless person. In meditation restlessness is considered as a hindrance, because it prevents mindfulness.” From: http://thebuddhisttemple.org. “Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun’s melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him.”
~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
“So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior. (68)”
~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart
“Life does not stand still for long. All of life is a cycle of motion and rest. We grow, we push ahead, we exert ourselves, we rest, and then move forward again. For humanists, such we are, the purpose of life is to live – to live fully, to live comprehensively, to live strenuously, to bathe ourselves in the riches of experience. But motion, which is unguided, is erratic, chaotic, unsatisfying, and sheer restlessness. It is a cliché that life is a journey. But as much as we are inspired by the wanderlust of life’s journey, at some point we need to return home again. We need to come home so that we reflect upon where we have been, renew our energies, and chart our future as much as it is in our power to do so. Life presses us onward toward the expansion of our energies and the assertion of our wills. But as much as we driven to roam through life, we also need fixed points, anchorages and safe harbors within which we can restore ourselves and take a moment to reflect and get our lives in order.”
~ Dr. Joseph Chuman
Consider the idea of restlessness as a part of the human condition: that perhaps we need periods of restlessness in order to grow. Examining our own restlessness helps us gain insight into our life’s journey.
Restlessness is often chosen because to match the transition period at the end of winter, in climates that experience a severe winter (or, perhaps, a severe summer). Days are growing longer but we are just out of reach of the warmth and green of spring (or the coolness of the end of summer).