There is a human tendency to think of life as a grand abstraction rather than as a set of objectives to be completed in definite hours. In her book, 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam suggests:
If you want to be a writer, you must dedicate hours to putting words on a page…
To be a mindful parent, you must spend time with your child….
If you want to sing well in a functioning chorus, you must show up for rehearsals…
If you want to be healthy, you must exercise…
Reading this text, I was struck by the use of the word must as a necessary corollary to the wants listed. I am reminded of Charlotte Mason’s words to parents:
“But the first duty of the parent is to teach children the meaning of must; and the reason why some persons in authority fail to obtain prompt and cheerful obedience from their children is that they do not recognize must in their own lives.”
This recognition of must is another human principle at work. Must in living means, I live under authority, I live in relationship and I live responsibly.
Most adults feel the constraining must in the daily workplace. But what about the musts in our leisure time, in our relationships, in the nagging list of “to do” we carry with us from week to week, year to year? Some might feel put off by the question because they feel entitled to their free time after being responsible all day at work.
What adult plans on being unhealthy, on negatively bonding with others, on watching hours upon hours of television, or on hurling angry commands at her children? If we want to be healthy, we must eat well and exercise. If we want to have friendships that make deposits into your life, we must choose friends that deal with the stresses of life maturely. If we want to have an intellectual life and engage in actives that nourish us, we must not watch television for endless hours. If we want meaningful time with our children, we must engage in conversation and share life together.
To have personal integrity must, must have meaning.