a little something extra

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sabbath 22

My co-readers had their busy week(s) leading up to Easter. Mine was last week, and the refractory period has rendered me late posting on this chapter. Cristopher's post is up; Tripp's went up today. I put off reading Cristopher's post until after I'd read the chapter, which I did while I made dinner this evening. It often falls to me to summarize the chapter because I am often the first of the three of us to get a post up. Here, since I'm late, I'll just refer you to what Cristopher says about the chapter -- he captures what I think are all the important parts. The rest of my post will be written partly in response to the chapter and partly in response to Cristopher's post, so if you haven't followed the link above, you might want to do so now.

On the chapter -- some of my thoughts concur with Cristopher's. While I agree in theory that many decisions are better made with some rest behind them and some pause that creates space for alternatives and new ideas to grow, I also note that practically speaking, that method offers far too much opportunity for passivity, or for stealth maintenance of the status quo. The example that leaps to my mind is the sexism and homophobia of the Roman Catholic Church. Periodically when I get up on this soapbox (which I'm going to abandon in a minute, I promise) some well-meaning individual suggests that I just need to be patient, that the RCC will reform itself in time.

Well, kids, if 2,000 years isn't enough time for the extraction of the institutional head from the institutional orifice... I'm not waiting any longer. This is Exhibit #1 of "time for weighty thought" standing as an excuse for "privilege maintaining its place." This isn't waiting for wisdom. I'll none of it.

However, there are certainly instances in the individual life in which pause and rest contribute to wise decision-making. For one example, I've staved off more than one episode of potential retail therapy by postponing the decision to buy for a couple of days.

If you've been reading the co-readers' posts on these chapters, I hope you have found that you share my pleasure at the different paths our thoughts can take traveling through and departing from the same base material. Cristopher's progression to intercessionary prayer gives a great example.

Agnostically speaking, I don't have much ground to stand on re: intercessionary prayer. If you're not sure there's anybody there, then praying to the potentially-not-there person for direct action would be a pretty big waste of time.

Muller's chapter highlighted this for me with this excerpt from his prescribed exercise at the end of the chapter: "During Sabbath, we rely on forces larger than ourselves at work on healing the world." I read this and my brain said, "I'm not sure there are forces larger than ourselves."

Now that's not to say there is no force larger than myself. But ourselves, now that's a different matter. The collective power of human energy and ingenuity is more than enough to damn the planet, for example, and we'd better pull like hell and hope it's enough to save it.

So if collective human energy is all we've got, I would suggest that that human energy still needs the resource of rest to be at its best, and to be guided by the greatest available wisdom.

The full exercise Muller details for this chapter smacks of magical thinking, but it's an effective way to defuse the shrillest anxious responses our problems can evoke in us. I would suggest that one might start with the exercise, but should not stop with it. If we experience the relaxation and sense of well-being generated by the exercise, we would do well thereafter to feed it into active thinking about the problem at hand, and to practical actions guided by that thinking.


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