Bonhoeffer and the two-bob watch

anxietyPerhaps my greatest problem has been anxiety. Not panic, just constant gnawing anxiety—less serious now that I am retired, but still there. The little white pills help, and I don’t need many. Prayer is important. Sheer quiet is wonderful but meditation is impossible. I can’t relax enough. The intellect says "All is well". Faith says, "All is well." But the the tension is always, always, there. It never, ever, goes away. As Australians used to say, I’m wound up like a two-bob, 20¢, watch.

We always used to think it was one of the elementary rights of man that he should be able to plan his life in advance, both private life and professional. That is a thing of the past. The pressure of events is forcing us to give up ‘being anxious for the morrow’. But it makes all the difference in the world whether we accept this willingly and in faith (which is what the Sermon on the Mount means) or under compulsion. For most people not to plan for the future means to live irresponsibly and frivolously, to live just for the moment, while some few continue to dream of better times to come.
anxiety_1But we cannot take either of these courses. We are still left with only the narrow way, a way often hardly to be found, of living every day as if it were our last, yet in faith and responsibility living as though a splendid future still lay before us. ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land’, cries Jeremiah as the Holy City is about to be destroyed, a striking contrast to his previous prophecies of woe. It is a divine sign and pledge of better things to come, just when all seems blackest. Thinking and acting for the sake of the coming generation, but taking each day as it comes without fear and anxiety that is the spirit in which we are being forced to live in practice. It is not easy to be brave and hold out, but it is imperative.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer (d. 1945) Letters and papers from prison (ET, 1953), p.24f.