Yesterday, our local NPR station featured a seasonal story about “vacation time.” They told of the new policy in a major “technology” corporation that allow its employees to take unlimited vacation time – no restrictions whatsoever on where or when or how long people can take time off from work. On the surface this sounds too good to be true, the “most wonderful dream” of anyone who holds any kind of job in today’s work force. Imagine, being able to stay away from work whenever you wanted and for as long as you desired and still get paid for it?
The interesting twist to yesterday’s story is that, for the most part, most of the employees of this company hardly ever take any time off at all. In fact some are forced to take a few days away from the office.
When asked why, many of the people who work for this company said they were afraid to be away from work for too long. They figured their boss might judge them unfavorably, think of them as being “sluggards,” or as people who have no loyalty to their work. Others said they were afraid of too much vacation time because they would miss too much work if they stayed away for more than a few days, and then when they got back it would all be staring them in the face. Still others said that, even if they were away from the office, they would still be expected to work - even on vacation they would be taking along their laptops and phones, so why not just go into work?
I found yesterday’s story to be somewhat entertaining but moreover it seems to be that the story may have been a window into everyday life in today’s popular culture. For the most part, people rarely stop and rest, afraid of leaving work behind, often still working even when they are supposedly on vacation, perhaps working even if they don’t have a job- always pecking away at a keyboard or clinging to an iPhone, surfing the web, emails, endless texts.
Later in the day, after listening to that radio interview, I posed a simple question to some people I was talking with online, “When do you ever stop and rest?” I asked. Many if not most of the people I spoke with basically said, “we don’t.”
I am reminded of a wise observation once offered by the Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh:
If you are like most people, since you were born, you’ve been running tense,
carried away, the mind always pre-occupied by so many things.
So, first of all you need to train yourself to stop – stop running after these things.
Train yourself to stop, to be here, to come back to the wonders of
the present moment.
The summer is quickly passing away and “vacation time” is almost over. It seems to me that this is a perfect season for all of us to get over our fear of vacation, a perfect season to train ourselves to “stop and rest” - to take the time to be here in the moment, open and available to the wonders it all may bring.
Wendell Berry once offered some important words of wisdom – a valuable insight into life during “vacation time”
Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest.
It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help.