Friday, 19 September 2008


Here’s a question for you. Is routine a good thing or a bad thing?

I ask because, as happens in a teacher’s life about this time of the year, routine has settled in. Last week, I had an entire change of timetable and five new students. This week I have had merely one change of room and two new students. Next week I suspect neither rooms nor students will change. I even vaguely know where I ought to be at any one moment and without consulting my colour-coded timetable. Looking ahead over the next nine months or so which is all that the teaching year realistically is, I can broadly sketch out the highs and lows ahead. After four years full-time in my college I pretty much know what is going to be on my desk every week or so. Routine has set in.

Now don’t get me wrong: there is a lot to be said for routine. The regular cycle of the week, without crises and changes, is surely good for us. To be honest, as I get older, I find I can manage without crises. All the medical evidence seems to be that it really isn’t very good for us either. And who doesn’t ultimately like that monthly pay packet? You could even argue that the institution of the Sabbath in the Bible sanctifies routine with its call for ‘six days work and one day off’. Repeat ad infinitum.

And yet... isn’t there something rather soporific about it? Something terribly, worryingly, deadeningly numbing? Doesn’t routine force us to stare at the road immediately ahead of us and to neglect that distant (but perhaps not that distant) horizon where this world ends and eternity begins. I suspect we need to be wary of routine and its accompanying myopia. Forgive me, incidentally, if you are in finance; this has not been a routine week. Yet one of the curious effects of routine, it seems to me, is that it deadens us not just to our own relentless march to heaven or hell but to the trials of others. We stay locked in the furrow of our daily labours. Perhaps the words of the writer to the Hebrews ought to come to mind: ‘For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.’ (Hebrews 13:14) Just so.

Simeon continues to make good progress by the way; thanks for all your prayers. The books alas, need something to generate more interest, but I know not what.

Have a good week