Daily Rituals

Shari checked out a library book for me the other day called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a fun book I’ve enjoyed reading. One of the highlighted “artists” was Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, and social critic. Here’s what the book had to say about his daily ritual…

The Danish philosopher’s day was dominated by two pursuits: writing and walking. Typically, he wrote in the morning, set off on a long walk through Copenhagen at noon, then returned to his writings for the rest of the day into the evening.

The walks were where he had his best ideas, and sometimes he would be in such a hurry to get them down that, returning home, he would write standing up before his desk, still wearing his hat and gripping his walking stick or umbrella.

Kierkegaard kept up his energy with coffee, usually taken after supper and a glass of sherry. Israel Levin, his secretary from 1844 until 1850, recalled that Kierkegaard owned “at least 50 sets of cups and saucers, but only one of each sort” —and that, before coffee could be served, Levin had to select which cup and saucer he preferred that day, and them, bizarrely, justify his choice to Kierkegaard.

I must admit that I enjoyed reading of Kierkegaard’s unusual routine. These sorts of rituals are absolutely necessary for the creative soul. Time alone, in solitude, and out in nature are my magic formula—the times and places where I am able to dream and sense something of the Divine. We all need to figure out these special and unique locations where we are able to see and hear and think and dream…

In Brian Zahnd’s latest book Water to Wine, he speaks of the necessary silence:

A posture of quietude needs to be adopted by contemporary Christianity, especially in North America. Too much of the most visible presence of Christianity is loud, vociferous, and angry. It bears a closer resemblance to shock-jocks than Saint Francis.

And I don’t hesitate to suggest that Francis of Assisi might offer us a better model than Rush of Limbaugh.

We don’t need to add more noise to the raging tumult that is America. We have enough of that as it is… and it’s not helping. Thirteenth-century Italy had plenty of social and political problems, but Francis found a more creative way to respond than by yelling at people. His own life of prayer, peace, and poverty offered a quiet critique of systemic sin, while demonstrating the alternative way of Christ. In our discordant times, we need our churches to be more like Saint Francis and less like Fox News. We need a quieter, less combative, less belligerent Christianity. More quietness and trust, less riot and protest.

In this fascinating piece on the cartoon Peanuts, Vanity Fair confesses, “Charles Schulz’s best work was driven by ponderous little discoveries and silences, the revealing day-to-day moments of childhood. He knew that walking home from school or sitting on the sidewalk could have infinite philosophical weight. But this (new) movie has no small moments. What should be small moments are transmuted into enormous ones.

The camera treats its subjects like the star of a modern blockbuster. Every scene has movement. The presentation is overly zealous, with a high-gloss orchestral score to underline every critical action. And it never lingers on the in-between moments. It lets you see Snoopy walking to his doghouse at night, but not for very long. It’s afraid to let nothing happen.

But nothing could be everything to Charles Schulz. That’s where emotional discoveries were made.

And when it’s happy, it’s tremendously happy, like any other family film. But Peanuts never set out to be tremendously happy. It forgets the proverbial wisdom that Charles Schulz learned from experience. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.

Maybe the old-school Charles Shulz Peanuts was on to something. Perhaps it’s good to be well-acquainted with silence. And maybe, just maybe, it’s good to have the daily ritual of quiet (the walk) along with the work of writing (or whatever creative endeavor you choose).


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

3 Comments to Daily Rituals

  1. Makes me think of my cabin in the woods I’m going to have someday. Some little place with nothing in it except what you bring with you.

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