The Sanctity of Time
I wonder if you're feeling like I am in what is now, I guess, week 9 (?) of shelter-in-place. The days and the weeks are blending together and I am growing tired of the routine of endless chores and Zoom calls. No doubt, there are pros and cons to sheltering-in-place with a family, too, that I am less aware of. Well, enter Abraham Joshua Heschel. His classic The Sabbath poses the enormous question: how do we sanctify time? This, he says, is the primary concern of Judaism and it's clear to see how that DNA is embedded deeply in my own Christian faith. Especially in a pandemic time,
I wonder: is it possible to sanctify this time? Is it possible to abide more deeply in this time at home, in this stillness, in this silence (or in this chaos -- if you've got little kids at home!)? Is it possible to detach ourselves from the feeling that we aren't doing enough, seeing enough, experiencing enough, creating enough while the entire world outside our doors is hurting? Heschel says "Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people... This is our constant problem--how to live with people and remain free, how to live with things and remain independent?"
We kind of know this intuitively already. We feel guilt for not meeting an arbitrary deadline. We feel guilty for taking a nap. We feel a little lost when we don't have school or work to ground us. Heschel's point, I want to be clear, is not about the sanctification of time in order that we be more productive in the rest of our lives; he says it "is not about psychology or sociology." Rather, "the Sabbath is the name of God." It is a worthwhile exercise simply for its own sake, for the health of our spiritual lives.
Community organizing shares echoes of this concept -- we have work to do together but we believe that everyone in our community matters to us, not for their possible utility to our lives, but simply because every human being matters. If we try hard to believe that our neighbors and friends matter, full-stop, then maybe we can try a little harder to give that same worth to ourselves, especially in a global pandemic.
Well... how do we sanctify time? Might I suggest:
Look to the mundane; try dwell more deeply into the prosaic aspects of living. There is a saying, "Everybody wants revolution but no one wants to wash the dishes." What would it take for you to take the time to do 10 dishes or 2 loads of laundry or pick 15 weeds.
Disengage from the productivity culture that we find ourselves trapped in. Does this mean you take a nap? Or maybe it means to take some intentional time away from your phone, your computer, your streaming videos. Finally, simply pay attention to your own feelings, especially your feelings of discomfort and antsyness. What are you missing? Where are those feelings coming from?