My friend Marc announced on his blog that his church in Maine is retiring VCW version 1.0 in order to dedicate his efforts to design, develop, and implement version 2.0 in the (hopefully) near future. There’s a lot I could talk about with that, since the idea fascinates me, but towards the end of his entry, he admits that he also needs a rest. And Americans don’t like to rest. It’s not something we value; we see it as a waste of potentially productive time. Simply stopping is decried as being lazy, or, if we are feeling more generous, we express our sympathy for someone who’s “burnt out.” Our idea of vacation is to go somewhere different, cram in as much new stuff to do while we’re there, and then come back to do our normal routine.

Maybe it’s just me, but can’t relate to this. I never have. The modern American “vacation” does nothing for me, and so I try to resist. But some people can’t enjoy their vacation unless they load the calendar with activities (and, I might add, spend more money in a week than they might normally spend in a month or two). My idea of rest is quiet and stillness, to walk the Garden with God in the cool of the day during the evening breezes. My idea of vacation is this exact same thing, only for a more extended period of time than what I can manage normally.

We annually make the trip from CNY to NH to go “home.” In Christian spirituality, “home” is often a metaphor for “place of rest.” In our society, though, it is anything but; some “vacation” at home in order to get more done; others use their “vacation” to work on/around the house for their entire vacation period. When I go to NH, I want to rest, even as I know that I must continue to work in other ways. I do not desire to have my calendar filled up with either my own work or with dozens of activities and excursions that we are not normally able to do. During my rest periods of the day, and on my weekly Shabbat, I desire to sit, perhaps read something light and unrelated to my work, or fish, or walk in my woods. Not everybody understands this or, if they do, they reject it in good American fashion. When I’m “caught” just sitting and enjoying the breeze over the water, I am likely to over hear “go ask your father, he’s not doing anything right now.” I am likely to be accosted with a request for a project that, since I’m not doing anything, I’m able to give a hand to (or be told to do outright by myself). Ironically, in order to rest from my labors, of which there are many, I have to pretend to work, to look like I’m working.

Shabbat is good for the soul. It is good for the mind, and it is good also for the body. It is a lost art. We drive ourselves, our workers, and our students very hard in our society. I wonder how much our work, and the work of our students etc., would improve by allowing them rest, and I wonder what it would take to cultivate a climate that values rest as much as it values productivity.