I have a bad habit; actually, I have a number of bad habits, but I prefer to reveal them one at a time.
In particular circumstances, I have been accused of being rude. People will say that they saw me on the street yet I neither waved to them nor acknowledged them; indeed, they will sometimes say that I stared right at them but didn’t say hello. Not surprisingly, I have no memory of these encounters. Without question, I was there in body, doing all that a body does; also without question, though, my mind was somewhere else, generally speaking, in another time zone, if not another universe.
This habit is by no means unique. For many people, daydreaming is a common endeavour; it is sometimes the only thing that helps us get through the day, and for me, it is also the time in which a number of my homilies and/or newspaper articles get written. When I’m walking, the worst that might happen is that I miss an encounter with someone I know or I walk into walls. I hesitate to say, however, that I have also been known to daydream while behind the wheel; this used to be a rather frequent occurrence when I lived in southern Ontario and had to drive from the Niagara Peninsula to Hamilton via the Burlington Bridge. I would reach the other side of the bridge and find myself wondering how I had got there…perhaps I was lucky that I actually did get there!
One lesson I’ve learned is that people like me need a dog. First thing every morning I take my dog, Oliver, for a walk. True to form, during most of these perambulations, I am off somewhere else, completely oblivious to how many times he takes a sniff, chews on something he probably shouldn’t or marks his territory. Every so often, though, he forcibly yanks me out of my reverie and almost yanks my shoulder out of its socket, usually when he is just not ready to end one of these constitutional endeavours.
Oliver’s yank is invariably my wake-up call, a wake-up call that each one of us—daydreamer or not—occasionally needs. It is a somewhat brutal reminder that the spiritual life, in contrast to being rather ethereal and airy-fairy, is solid and grounded—right here and right now.