I’ve written often about the allure of the slow-paced life depicted on The Andy Griffith Show. There’s Andy playing the guitar on the porch while Aunt Bee sits contentedly by. Barney smiles dreamily before he stretches and says he thinks he’ll head on over to Thelma Lou’s to watch some TV (emphasis on the “T”).
I yearn for that type of simplicity, but then I realize that life has never been easy for any generation. The folks in Mayberry probably did more physical labor in a week than I do in a year. (My tobacco priming days are long gone.) The old paths were full of long hours of backbreaking work — none of this sitting at a desk from 9 to 5, staring at a computer screen.
But there is something our ancestors knew that we have somehow (conveniently?) forgotten — that the human body was never designed to go nonstop. They realized that they must periodically rest to recharge their bodies for another week of labor.
In other words, they kept the biblical Sabbath. We modern folks tend to think of resting on the Sabbath as an outdated concept — something we can’t afford to do these days.
I would like to argue that we can’t afford NOT to do it.
In our philosophical loftiness, we tend to think that keeping Sabbath was just a strict law that showed our loyalty to our demanding Maker.
Your Sunday School lesson for the day: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Our Creator realized that these human bodies needed rest, so He set aside one day out of seven for us to simply … do nothing much. (Even if you don’t believe in God, you must admit that taking a break once a week is highly logical.)
But this is not Sunday School, so let me get to the real reason I believe a Sabbath rest is important. It has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with the fact that we’re killing ourselves.
We never stop. We may sit at a desk all week rather than plowing with mules these days, but even when we leave the office at 5, we don’t slow down. Billy has to go to soccer practice, Sally has violin lessons, we can’t miss our community club meeting.
And that’s just Monday night. The evenings of workdays Tuesday through Thursday are accompanied by the same type of rush-rush-hurry-hurry — 4-H, Boy Scouts, Ruritans, Lions Club, dance class, choir practice, pick-a-sport-any-sport — none of them bad things.
But aaaaahhhh … on Friday night when the sun goes down, the original seventh-day Sabbath begins (the Jewish day goes from sundown to sundown). We kick back, eat a leisurely dinner and…
Oh, you don’t do that? You’ve got to go to the local high school basketball game or to the mall to get Tommy a new pair of cleats before his first baseball practice tomorrow?
Well, surely you can rest on Saturday. You can’t? You’ve got to be at the softball field by 8 a.m. before Susie’s choreography practice at noon before you come home to do all of the housework you didn’t have time to do all week? (Oh, and don’t forget Jimbo’s science project that’s due Monday.)
I would love to end this nightmarish tale by reassuring you all that we can rest on Sunday — what many call Sabbath since Emperor Constantine changed it in 321 A.D. But alas, I cannot. Many of us rise early to rush to Sunday School and worship service (a commendable thing, in my opinion), hurry to beat the noon crowd to the seafood restaurant then gobble our food so we can make it to the gym for Junior’s basketball game.
Yes, we do tend to collapse onto the sofa on Sunday night, but all along, we are teased unmercifully by the thought that the rat race starts all over again in the morning, and we haven’t even ironed the kids’ school clothes for the week.
Are you tired yet? I hope so, because I want to shock you into finding time for a true weekly rest (no matter what day). What you read above pretty much describes my hectic life, but I am on the road to change, and I want you to come along. You will be much more productive at every thing you do if you shut down the world for even a few hours one day a week and just REST.
The New York Times recently published an article by Tony Schwartz called “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.” Schwartz says: “A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health … Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable.”
Schwartz notes that the American work ethic teaches us that downtime is wasted time. His research shows that more than 33 percent of workers regularly eat lunch at their desks. Even more will probably work while vacationing.
He writes, “In most workplaces, rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive.”
Amen, Mr. Schwartz.
We may not live in Mayberry any more where the days seemed longer and where true leisure — not muddled with emails, Facebook, phone calls, texting — typically followed hard work. But we CAN — with proper planning — stop periodically to take a deep breath and rest. Sit a spell, kick your shoes off, forget the unanswered emails. The life you save may be your own.
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at email@example.com. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.