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Friday, 2 October 2020

When is a habit a rut?


What is the difference between a habit and a rut, because I’m in one of them but can’t decide which? Habit seems more positive than rut, I suppose.  As, Vance Havner said: ‘Many people are in a rut and a rut is nothing but a grave with both ends kicked out.’ Pithy, authoritative, but then being an evangelist he was one used to certainties. 

Maybe ‘rut’ is ‘habit’ recognised, whatever the case, habits, ruts, they’re devilishly hard to break free from. In my case, perhaps impossible, because it’s just so comfortable; brain and muscle memory conspire to keep me in place.

I’m talking about the early morning routine and my daily waste of three hours. The routine is simple enough: Wake up at 6 am. Lumber downstairs mildly surprised I’m still breathing.

Then what? 

Three hours over a pot of strong tea, listening to various news programmes Radio 4 — Talk Radio —LBC — whilst browsing social media, Facebook, Twitter, various blogs, and those newspapers free from a paywall.  

The thing is, it’s all very pleasant but such a despiriting waste of time. I think of alternatives: 

An early morning walk, but that would involve getting washed and dressed and waking up my wife. I’m not a quiet person. 

I could spend those precious three hours reading, breaking into my formidable pile  'To Be Read' books, or delving into one those ridiculously cheap kindle collections I can never resist buying To think, you can get the collected works of G K Chesterton for less than the cost of a pint. Ridiculous. And I have them all. Never read them. Just can't resist buying them.

 In short, I could be reading,  dipping into a Dostoevsky or a Fu Manchu . But no. Instead I’m caught by the radio burblings of Mishal Hussein, Nick Robinson, Hartley Brewer, Nick Ferrari, occasionally cursing. The news is essentially the same, opinions perhaps marginally different ranging from the honeyed-venomous to the chirpy aggressive, from shallow certainties to cheerful bluster with adverts thrown in.

And I ask myself, if they make me so angry, what am I doing here? Why waste my time like this? 

Questions without answers.

I’ve no idea.

I could be writing – three hours is a considerable chunk of time. And then at last the answer sinks in. I’m still asleep, or at least in that border land between sleep and full consciousness. The three hours slip by in what seems like five minutes. And I surface empty minded and needing the toilet.

So, the question remains. 

Leo Tolstoy had the answer. He was after all a genius.

‘We imagine that when we are thrown out of our usual ruts all is lost, but it is only then that what is new and good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is much, much before us’ 

All well and good but within eight years of his death you had the Russian Revolution, perhaps not what he was thinking when extolling the virtues of change. 

Maybe I should just stick with Arnold Bennett: ‘The great advantage of being in a rut is that when one is in a rut, one knows exactly where one is.’ 

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