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July’s Diary article by Ruth Pyke June 17, 2016

Posted by nicholastufton in The Diary Monthly letter.
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When I was growing up there was a popular advert for a certain chocolate bar. The advert promised that this chocolate bar would help you to ‘work, rest and play’. Current dietary advice would surely not advise eating one of these chocolate bars every day. But the idea of a balanced life with work and rest and play is still highly desirable. For so many people it seems beyond achievement.

Many people work long hours, and the 24-hour availability of email and the internet exerts its own pressure to be accessible at all hours of the day and night. Employers make much of a work/life balance but it still eludes us. Of course there are busy periods in the year for each of us. April is always frantic for accountants and those who work in finance, August is demanding for our farmers working at all hours to bring the harvest in whilst contending with the vagaries of English weather. The end of term brings pressure to teachers, and children have to cope with the exam season. Sometimes it balances out, but in a recent survey the British did not fare well in the work/life balance tables. Two French cities led the way, followed by Moscow and then Finland and Austria. In the top ten cities for a good work/life balance there were no British cities.

Yet we are urged to eat a balanced diet, to take time for leisure and sport and relaxation. The church year is busiest from Advent to Easter but within the year there are special days when we remember the different saints of the church. On July 11th we remember Saint Benedict. Benedict lived in 6th-century Italy and founded a monastic community. But the Rule which he wrote for his brothers is defined by balance, moderation and reason.

Here we find the sensible advice that as the seasons moved from winter to summer, as the daylight lengthened and the nights grew shorter and as the agricultural year made greater demands through the growing season of summer, times of prayer should be shortened. His rule deals with a respect for those tools which we need and use whether in the kitchen or the workshop; for the importance of sharing meals together, of hospitality and a structure to the day which indeed balances work, rest, prayer and play. The Benedictine lifestyle has been much appreciated by many contemporary people.

By the time this is read we will know whether we are in the EU or out of it. Whatever the case, I hope that we continue to work for a society which insists on a better work/life balance so that all may enjoy time for refreshment and rest, time for work and, I suggest, a time for prayer.