Contemplation in an Age of Information [Vol 1.4]

F A T H O M || T R I B E
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
                                                     –T.S. Eliot, “The Rock”

What if your work doesn’t allow for Deep Work? I received an important note from one subscriber sharing a bit about work experience; one common to many twentysomethings. I wanted to share it with you and provide a few comments:

I’m an entry level sales rep at (my company), which means I’m on the phone most of the day every work day. My interactions are either me leaving less than one minute voicemails or me engaging in less than five minute conversations, trying to learn about people’s lives and see if they might be a good customer for us.
The long and short of it is this: my job seemingly doesn’t allow for deep work. Whether I’m researching to learn about a prospect or taking a break from the continuous amounts of calls I make, there doesn’t seem to be an avenue to get in good flow or avoid distractions, as LinkedIn and the internet are pivotal to the job . . .

So, what do you think? Is there room in a sales job like mine for deep work? Do I need to find it in other areas of my life? How do people in my profession build those strong neural pathways designed by deep work if the job doesn’t really allow for it?

Excellent questions. In short, YES…there’s room in your life for Deep Work, even if there’s not room (yet) for deep work practices in your job. You can build habits of deep work now by cultivating DEPTH in other areas of your life. As you climb the organizational ladder into roles with more autonomy to think deeply, you’ll have the disposition baked in. Then you are transferring a skill you already possess, rather than building it from scratch.

I would start by developing the practice of contemplation. And, spoiler alert: Deep Work is really a modern take on contemplation applied to the workplace.

The Catholic writer and teacher Father Richard Rohr was tremendously helpful to me in cultivating this practice. Rohr is a champion of contemplation, what he refers to as “the lost tradition” in Christianity. Contemplation is a radically simple, yet perpetually elusive spiritual practice. It is the practice of intently, purposefully focusing one’s life on God, in the here and now. Contemplation is a posture of living in the present, free of longing for what was, free of worry about what will be. Contemplation is an embrace and consideration of what IS, and a pursuit of what the here and now means for your life.

It’s a mindset that fathoms the present season, a soul-pursuit of thriving in the now. To truly contemplate something requires time, reflection, and intention. If your job doesn’t allow for deep work, cultivate contemplation in other areas of your life by considering the following questions:
  • What do my twenties afford my inner life that other seasons cannot?
  • What does it look like to be grateful in the here and now for the life I have?
Once you’ve identified these areas, apply the “rules” of Deep Work (outlined in last week’s letter) to these areas. I have a hunch that your relationships, your family and your community will benefit greatly from your deep, contemplative work.

If a deep life is a good life, then we should pursue depth in all dimensions of life, not just work.

Worth Reading: An excellent write up by Christianity Today on Eugene Peterson aptly titled The Contemplative Christian.

Worth Listening: Speaking of Peterson, check out this podcast Krista Tippett’s interview of of the scholar/pastor, called Enter into What is There (a powerful phrase for contemplation). Krista was clearly surprised and (thoughtfully) provoked by Eugene’s wisdom.

Worth Pondering: “To pay attention. This is our endless and proper work.”Mary Oliver

Live deeply this week,


**Pre order Drew’s book (co-authored with Jess Fankhauser) Ready or Not: Leaning into Life in our Twenties, by clicking HERE. #ReadyorNotBook

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