Narcotics, Chesterton, and Two Reasons for Repeating

Daisies from Public Domain PicturesI recently sat through a meeting I am sure I have had at least two times before . . . and almost nothing seemed to have changed in the intervening years.  It was a sad and frustrating moment that left me thinking about the repetitive things in life.

I believe there are two reasons why we repeat things: dysfunction and delight.

I had not heard “insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results” until a few years ago.  Einstein gets credit for it, as does an author named Rita Mae Brown.  Turns out that it’s probably a quote from a Narcotics Anonymous handbook, which makes perfect sense.  Sometimes in life we repeat things because of some dysfunction: a problem in the system or the personality.  We may think we have done something about it until we realize oh no, we have not.  It creeps back in, forces us to wrestle, steals any joy we may have, and then slinks away until another inopportune time.

The other, and superior, option is delight.  G. K. Chesterton said it best in Orthodoxy:

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life.  Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always says “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is . . . It is possible that God says every morning “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

I suppose much of life lands somewhere in between the poles of dysfunction and delight.  I’d like to think that the repetition that I have built into my life is rooted in delight, in things that bring joy and a kind of peace but also a kind of excitement.  Take a moment today and think on the recurring things in life: conversations and conflicts, actions and reactions, and see what side of the spectrum they fall on.  Heaven help us to fill our lives with the repetition of delight, moments precious like the making of each daisy.

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