Sunday, November 13, 2011


I'm feeling pretty slammed at the moment. The Olympia Film Festival is this week and I'm just one of the hundreds of people who've put in some literal blood sweat and tears into making it happen (I'd love to see a few of the films), Books to Prisoners takes up my Mon's, and there is Spanish class on Wed's, I work 40 hrs a week, try not to fall asleep in church, I'm working on putting out a slightly timely book review for here on my blog on one of the densest books I've read since college, I have to go to a CPR training to renew my certification on Fri, still trying to cobble together some of the intrest in my failed "Faith @ Occupy Olympia" into...something. There is so much crap that I need to get done. Oh yeah, and I'm sick at the moment.

In the midst of all this I have two things kinda floating through my head about the Sabath, the Biblically mandated time of rest: 1) As I decry the ways that the powers that be exploit and take advantage of me, as is the nature of the state and the capitalist system (and for that matter is a story as old as empire) I'm quick to ignore the ways I do it to myself. I'll take the overtime when it's offered, I'll overcommit myself but somehow it's not a problem when I do it to myself... I don't remember who first pointed out this tendancy but it rang very true and is particularly ringing true at the moment.
2) Ched Myers and Walter Brueggemann, two of my favorite theologians, have argued that the purpose (or at least one of the many purposes) of the Sabath is to remind us that we are not in control and the world doesn't need us as much as we'd like to pretend. My world/The World won't fall apart if I allow it to go on by itself, if I sit back for a day. I'm not even talking about my "job" per se, but all the wonderful stuff that I cram into my week. Even when it's "the Lord's work". We resist this but in a society of workaholics (like me) I think this is a very timely, even prophetic message.
3) We need to rediscover resting outside of the dominant naratives of our society; we need to discover how to rest in community appart from our (usually) unspoken civic (read: the religion of USAmerica) duty to buy stuff and consume.

What about you guys? Do you Sabbath well? Do you find it easy to relax? Really relax? To trust that the world won't fall apart without your medelling?


  1. Great post, chevre.

    I think the idea of the Sabbath or Shabbat is a radical notion in the post-capitalist era.

    The idea that one day out of the whole workweek--one single day--is not for sale. Not negotiable, not exploitable. We might have to sell our bodies, our skills, our time, six days of the week, just in order to survive, but on Shabbat a little piece of us we get to keep and not count it as "x amount of dollars per hour". No matter what we do, how poor we are, one day a week we get to be sovereign over our own bodies.

    The fact that you are finding yourself exploiting yourself on your own time is a natural condition of living in a capitalist system, which extends its claws not only into your wage-life but into your own life. Capitalism isn't satisfied with your labor: it wants all of you. Our personal (unsellable) time is so limited, chipped own constantly, that when we finally have time to do something we actually WANT to do, we've gotten so in the habit of dividing it into ever smaller units (seconds or cents or minutes or dollars), it's hard to just stop cold turkey. The result is your "downtime" is just as exhausting as your working life.

    That's why living Shabbatically has to be done with radical intention, with Kavannah. You have to consciously make the effort to NOT make plans. Its hard! The rabbis of old realized this and made a whole list of 39 activities that were prohibited on a day of rest because they related in some way to production. Now that we have no control over our own role in the productive process, being conscious of WHAT we create/produce/contribute out of LOVE and WHAT we produce out of FEAR/SURVIVAL instinct is especially important.

    Once you can have a truly complete kavannah/intention-based approach to Shabbat, a sincere idea of what your body is and is capable of and what it needs and what it wants, then you can begin to approach your working life in a different way.

    We are disempowered an alienated from our selves by wages. When we remove wage from the equation and learn to control our bodies to just exist, then we are able to prepare our bodies for the much more difficult, and arguably messianic, task of of learning to resist. Existence is resistance, true, but we need to re-teach ourselves and each other how to do both in a society which values neither.

  2. Thanks for calling my attention to this post and comment. Agreed. As someone who also really struggles to shut it down for a day a week, I'd just add that one of our defeating illusions is that we can observe Shabat as an individual discipline. In fact, it takes both a community and tradition to counter-balance the cultural forces around and within us! Which is why Christians should be actively learning from Jews about how to do this.

  3. Oh man. That's me all over! I agree with Yakov. In this day and age a Sabbath is a radical idea.