a little something extra

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sabbath 7

Darnit, I thought this was Sabbath 8. Ah well.

Cristopher has already posted his response to this chapter and its exercise. Tripp is out of town and laboring in the grip of a strep infection. So I suggest we all say a prayer for his swift and easy recovery, and cut him a sabbath-like break.

The chapter at hand is entitled Dormancy. It is, largely, a rehash of points Muller made earlier in the book, about how a cyclical period of rest enhances the health and life of all kinds of organisms, delivering up such interesting statistics as these:
  • A woodchuck's body temperature may drop more than thirty degrees Celsius [during hibernation]. That's a drop of 54 degrees Fahrenheit, for those of you playing along in the U.S.!
  • The jumping mouse's tiny heart, which normally beats between 500 and 600 times per minute, slows to 30 beats per minute during hibernation.
I know. How did any of us make it to the year 2007 without knowing the resting heart rate of an average jumping mouse?

In truth, I'm mocking Muller because he's repeating himself, and because I found a lot of unnecessary God ladled all over this chapter. Apparently when I read it I was not in the mood for more God -- or, more accurately, I was not in the mood for more of another person's opinions about God.

The exercise, however, is a big big winner. Here it is:

The Sabbath Box

Make a Sabbath box. When you set aside time for Sabbath -- whether it is an hour, a morning, or a day -- put in the box those things you do not want to use. For some, a computer or telephone will be too cumbersome, but something symbolic -- an address book or a floppy disk
(shows that this book first came out in 1999, eh?) -- can serve as a physical reminder of what we leave behind when we enter sacred rest.

You can also use the Sabbath box to hold all the things you feel you have left undone. Perhaps write on a small piece of paper a word or phrase that signifies a particular worry or concern you would like to leave behind for the time being... Whatever remains to be done, for now, let it be. It will not get done tonight. In Sabbath time we take our hand off the plow, and allow God and the earth to care for what is needed. Let it be. Then, at the end of your Sabbath time, be aware of how you open the box, and how you respond to what you receive back into your life.

I like this exercise a lot. Now, I already have a basket on my bookshelf which is the designated spot for my keys, my cell phone, and my sunglasses if I had them on when I walked in the door. When I come in, I drop those things there. Never anywhere else. This is one of the many systems I've built up to defend myself against my own absentmindedness and tendency towards entropy. It works. This basket is also where I put anything that must go out with me the next time I leave the apartment -- outgoing mail, etc.

So I had a habit I could just enhance into what this exercise called for. I'm especially moved and pleased by the idea of laying down perpetual cares and things left undone, and as Muller says "letting God and the earth care for what is needed." This is a lovely thought for a solo person who feels the weight of her present and future entirely on her own shoulders. It's also a lovely thought for a person who is always afraid of forgetting to do something. All in all, this exercise is a winnah!

To be fair, I must note that where I placed an ellipsis in the exercise description above, Muller calls for a little ritual of lighting a candle and speaking aloud with friends or family the cares one is laying aside. I cut it partly because it seems a little precious to me, unlike some of Muller's other candle-related suggestions. I also cut it partly because there's nobody here to speak the cares aloud to/with/for.


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