Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sabbath Time

"Stop and Rest:
- an oasis in the wilderness -

An article in this morning’s New York Times talked about “the lamentable rise of desktop dining.” Apparently the rising trend among many if not most “up and coming” professionals today is to eat their lunch alone at their desks while they sit at their computers and catch up on their work. One person said that he eats at his desk because it allows him to “multitask.” The article also suggests that “taking a break for a midday meal has increasingly become a sign of idleness.”  

I think I was so struck by that article because it was so emblematic of what goes on with lots of people nowadays - everyone is multitasking all the time and taking a break is indeed often viewed as a symptom of laziness or idleness in our always- busy, technological society.

Today is Saturday, and interestingly enough, the very word Saturday means Sabbath or Rest.  Our ancient ancestors thought that taking some time to stop and rest was so important that they named a day of the week for it - perhaps a way of reminding one another to designate some specific time to be away from the busyness of the everyday routine, perhaps also reminding one another that taking time to rest is not a symptom of laziness.

Nowadays weekends tend to be even busier than Monday through Friday.  Many people work on weekends, and if they are not actually at work they are multitasking at home, answering emails and catching up on the work they were not able to do during the week.

As I think of it, in a culture where people won’t even take a break from work to go and eat lunch somewhere, being busy is almost a “badge of honor.” Busy people aren’t lazy people and when you can brag about how “insanely busy” you are, you also make a statement about how important you are.

In a very real sense, “busyness” can be just one more tool in the toolbox for building a big strong ego, and big egos are always a roadblock on the spiritual path.

I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by Mary Howe as she so beautifully describes her very busy day of doing errands accompanied by her little girl:

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market
and ‘hurry up honey,’ I say, ‘hurry, hurry’
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

Where do I want her to hurry to?
To her grave? To mine?
Where one day she may stand all fully grown?

In the wilderness just outside our home here in the desert, stands a beautiful oasis of palm trees – nature’s way of reminding me that as I walk through the wilderness of life I need to be careful not to always “hurry hurry” so much. I need to take the time and make the time to slow down, stop and rest, unplug for a spell, turn off the computer, listen to some music or read a book or maybe go out and have a leisurely lunch with friends or family, or maybe just sit quietly under a tree in the heat of the day.  Sabbath Time is hardly wasting time. Sabbath Time is finding time. Sabbath time is sacred time.

Wendell Berry once said:

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.
It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.


  1. It really is OK to be idle...something that I'm constantly having to remind myself. Whether it is taking a lunch break at work, or dawdling along with my youngest, or just hanging out on the sofa open to what happens next. It's actually quite sad to think that we live in a culture where idleness is not celebrated or encouraged, and where the word 'idle' is judged negatively. Yet each of us individuals can make a stand and forge a path of slowing down, and stopping to just stare in the midst of our crazily busy world. Thanks Paul xx

  2. We are enjoying the Sabbath of our lives.