A while ago my computer started playing up. It froze on certain programmes and despite my best efforts, it refused to open and allow me access. What a frustration! It almost felt as if I was dealing with a stubborn child who, without good reason, had withdrawn, shut himself off and become totally unresponsive.

 Being no more than semi-computer literate, I followed the regular pattern of my generation: I called in my son – who was not particularly patient with his dad. After running through all the standard procedures to get the computer started he eventually also gave up. His final verdict was: “Your computer is full of junk, dad. It has seized. It is overloaded. You need to organise and manage your programmes better”.

 Next step was off to the dealer who confirmed the problem. In fact, according to him my hard drive had given in and I was in danger of losing all my vital information. What a shock, what anxiety at the prospect of losing years’ worth of precious work: sermons, talks, letters, courses, poems, prayers and promises … the whole anthology of creative effort that I had collected, produced, stored quite diligently over many years – all gone in a moment!

 I was obliged to consider my son’s opinion on the state of my hard drive. And, drawing comparisons in my usual way, it had to cross my mind that there is a parallel between the human mind, our own psyche in fact, and these modern information systems. Even if not in the same mechanical way, our mental awareness is vulnerable to becoming disorganised, cluttered and overloaded, sometimes to a point where it can also freeze, pack up, call it a day. With increasing demands and pressures, the exhausting claims and responsibilities of modern society, it is no surprise that many suffer from burnout, depression and anxiety.

 As with my computer, banal as the comparison may be, many people today reach a point where everything has just become too much – and so they start to seize, becoming passive and negative. Eventually they lose their energy and perspective, they give up on life, shut down. This often starts with feelings of exhaustion and anxiety, a marked sense of irritation. These are the vital signs, the warning lights that our system has become overloaded, that it is in danger of giving in and shutting down.

 It is not always easy to regain your calm and restore a healthy perspective once you have become trapped in this deadly cycle of ongoing work and pressure. One needs to stop and take stock; remember what is of real value, focus on those things that we know are reliable. Being concerned, distracted by many things is not a new or modern problem. In Matt 6:33-34, Jesus urges his followers to turn their attention to the one thing that really matters and will make a difference – “Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before anything else, and all the rest will come to you as well. So do not be anxious about tomorrow, tomorrow will look after itself”.

 Is this not also what Martha, overstressed by so many duties and obligations, had to learn.   

“Martha, Martha you are fretting and fussing about so many things; but one thing is necessary” (Lk 11:41).

 Carel Anthonissen

Centre for Spirituality