The Long Lost Art of Digging Deeper

Sep 19, 2016

Time Reflections Slowing Down Contemplation
candles lit on a wooden fence

Photo by Altioe

Superficiality is the curse of our age… The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.

~Richard J. Foster in Celebration of Discipline

Whatever happened to depth? To profundityWhere have all the deep people gone? Buried beneath all the superficiality I imagine. (Pun intended).

I love the way Mr. Foster phrases the above quote. It is indeed a “desperate need” of our times. Perhaps it’s the introvert in me that feels this way. I crave meaningful conversations, authentic friendships, profound insights, transcendental experiences, and deep connection. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

“We don’t have time for depth,” you might say, “we are too busy running around in circles trying to make ends meet and keep everyone around us happy and fed.” I understand that. Maslow created the hierarchy of needs for a reason, after all. Food and shelter before depth — I’m all for it, believe me. But even in the midst of all the chaos in our lives, there have been moments where we come to rest in this question: is this all there is? Isn’t there more to life than this? 

It seems to me the busier we become, the more we are in need of depth.

Martin Luther, German theologian and religious reformer who died in 1546, said “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He recognized the importance of tackling a busy day by first spending time alone in intentional reflection. I don’t have a magic formula for how to incorporate this into one’s life. But I have found that there is no substitute. The real magic happens when we find a way to fill the empty pockets of our lives with more inner work, instead of more distractions.

I like fast food, eBooks, and on-demand movies just as much as the next person. But everything in moderation, no? There exists so much in our culture today that many would agree is shallow and frivolous. So much empty noise. Depth doesn’t stand a chance. It can’t compete in this age of instant gratification and endless distraction. And it’s certainly not one to shout from the rooftops or show up to a party to try and get your attention. No… depth is quieter than that.

Depth is candlelight amidst a blazing wildfire.

It is a harp in the symphony orchestra playing Mozart.

It is the gentle breeze in the midst of a storm.

The unspoken sympathy we failed to utter amidst the throng of slander.

We have become quick to judge, quicker to defend, and slower to let the meaning of something sink in. The fast-paced world we live in doesn’t leave room for contemplation, for reflection, or reverie. It often even discourages it. I can’t help but think we are on the verge of losing something precious in this way of living. Something of our essential selves.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

~Blaise Pascal

We need them both. We need the activists, the doers, the visionaries, the movers and shakers. But we also need the ones who sit quietly in a room alone, in contemplation. The ones who meditate, create space, journal, send out positive energy, and pray. These things cannot be done with speed; they are born out of stillness and reflection. Jesus spent as much time alone in prayer and communing with his father as he did preaching to people and performing miracles. As Miranda Lambert sings in her song All Kinds Of Kinds: “Ever since the beginning, to keep the world spinning, it takes all kinds of kinds.”

There is a place for fun and entertainment, but let us leave behind a greater legacy. Something tells me we weren’t put here merely to accumulate stuff and status, but rather to be able to look each other in the eye and send love. To pierce through the hatred and malice permeating so much of our culture today by finding ways to unite what feels severed.

I’m bringing depth back. It is not a flashy mission. There will be no firework display or marching band. People will not line up in the streets holding their breath in anticipation. But it is a distinguished mission nonetheless — radiant in its purpose, loving in its intention, and earnest in its delivery. The ones who are looking for a deeper barometer to measure life with will join me. All those who want to brave the depths of what lies within by digging deeper. We are explorers in the frontiers of the inner life, searching for pearls of wisdom hidden beneath the coating of people’s outer shells.

Depth doesn’t merely belong in textbooks, or libraries, or meditation centers. It belongs in our board rooms, and classrooms, and kitchen tables. But we must invite it in — start conversations, dig deeper, ask the fundamental questions, make time for reflection. Otherwise, we’re just running around, distracted, busy, exhausted, making sure everyone around us is fed and happy. We were meant to live for so much more.