Some things we keep postponing for a whole lifetime, and other things we would not think of postponing even for a count of ten. "Have you read that book?" I asked a philosophy student. "No," she replied, "I'm keeping it for the next life!" But anger we seldom postpone, or depression, or fear.... If we could postpone these and never postpone courage, love, justice, goodness.... If.... The word 'if' is itself a postponement. When there is an emergency we don't delay over 'ifs'. To be more specific, there are two kinds of 'if', which unfortunately are known by the same name, 'if': there is the 'if' you consider when you are determining the best way to do something, and this is an excellent 'if'; but there is also the 'if' that is only an excuse for doing nothing: "What if I fail? What if something were to go wrong? What if people don't like it?" Yes indeed! And what if the sky should fall?


Krishnamurti used to insist that time is our biggest problem. You create time, he said, by not relating fully to what you are doing at every moment. Then he explained. Instead of doing what needs to be done, and doing it fully, you think about it. Thinking is a good practice, but not when it is a substitute for doing. By thinking instead of doing, you create a gap between them - a time-lag - and through that gap the whole energy of your life leaks away; you relate to ideas and images of things (and of people, and of situations) rather than to the realities themselves. Reality is given no chance to redeem you; you begin to live out of your mind. His message: don't let your thinking become procrastination. "I will follow you, but let me go and bury my father first," said a man to Jesus (Luke 9:59). This was just an idiomatic way of saying, ‘After my father dies I will become your follower.’ At the obvious level, procrastination says: I will do it tomorrow (in Latin, the word for 'tomorrow' is cras), but what it really says is: I will not do it now - which is just a tactical way of saying: I will not do it.


I sat at the bedside of a dying man, one who had always been an intensely private person. So private was he that he was never known to talk about himself. I was alone with him in his last hour. Suddenly he began to talk about his life. He talked and talked compulsively, as if making up for lost time. At the end he said, "I never did any harm to anyone in my life." I had known him most of my life, and I knew that this was perfectly true. Then he added: "And I never did much good either." It was a cruel assessment, and on his face I saw profound regret for a privacy too well protected and for too long; a thousand regrets for all the things he had put off till tomorrow, and now he had no tomorrows left.


A young man went to a Rabbi and asked, “How can I love God with my whole heart, since I see that there are bad parts in my heart?” The Rabbi replied, “Well, it seems you will have to love God with the bad parts too!” Anything that is worth doing is worth doing well, the saying goes. But G.K. Chesterton amended it. Anything that is worth doing is worth doing even badly, he said! Do you refuse to sing until you are as good as Pavarotti? Do you refuse to dance until you are another Nijinsky? How did we learn to walk? By walking badly, by toddling, by falling down innumerable times. How did we learn to write our names? How do we learn to love? To procrastinate is to learn nothing and to do nothing.

Donagh O'Shea

These are brief articles, one per month,
on a wide variety of topics concerning the living of the Christian life.