Perfect rest is an art

Some quotes from Abraham Joshua Heschel’s wonderful and inspiring book The Sabbath, first published in 1951:

There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.

Things, when magnified, are forgeries of happiness, they are a threat to our very lives.

Commenting on the sanctification of time, Heschel notes:

Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, … on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.

… perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind and imagination.

… the Sabbath is not dedicated exclusively to spiritual goals. It is a day of the soul as well as the body; comfort and pleasure are an integral part of the Sabbath observance.

The seventh day is the armistice of man’s cruel struggle for existence, a truce in all conflicts, personal and social, peace between man and man, man and nature, peace within man …. The seventh day is the exodus from tension, the liberation of man from his own muddiness, the installation of man as a sovereign in the world of time.

I found the following thought particularly remarkable:

One must abstain from toil and strain on the seventh day, even from strain in the service of God.

The Sabbath … is a profound conscious harmony of man and the world, a sympathy for all things and a participation in the spirit that unites what is below and what is above. All that is divine in the world is brought into union with God.

Heschel’s life- and creation-affirming theology is on display in these words as well:

Rabbi Shimeon’s doctrine was: There is only heaven and nothing else; but heaven contradicted him and said: There is heaven and everything else.

One must live and act as if the fate of all of time would depend on a single moment.

One good hour may be worth a lifetime; an instant of returning to God may restore what has been lost in years of escaping from him.


Let’s do absolutely nothing – the #NOTBUSY Lent campaign

Stephen Cherry, Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom in an HourPerhaps I should explain the new ‘I’m not busy’ badge in the top right hand corner of this blog. I read a little book by Stephen Cherry yesterday, which is part of a Lent campaign (see http://www.notbusy.co.uk/) and a fascinating one at that. Lent is a time when Christians remember the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert. For many it is a time of giving things up. Traditionally, people would have given up certain foods, especially meat, during Lent, but these days it could be other things, such as social networking, to name only one example.

Cherry encourages us to give up busyness. Yes, that’s right, busyness!

His book, which is an ebook and a very quick read (apparently it’s the equivalent of no more than 41 printed pages), includes a number of helpful suggestions as well as a proper definition of the kind of busyness that Cherry thinks is unhelpful and even dangerous. One of his ideas is that we take 10–30 minutes each day doing absolutely nothing but living in the present and noticing the things around us. What a brilliant and truly counter-cultural suggestion!

Readers will have to turn to the book for more ideas and for Cherry’s thoughts on busyness and what he calls ‘time wisdom’, but here are some quotes on time and spirituality, the part of his book I most enjoyed, to whet your appetite:

… since time is a fundamental dimension and aspect of creation, spirituality connects us more realistically with time.

Busyness, in its new and chronic guise, is toxic to spirituality and to wellbeing precisely because it eliminates the possibility of the spiritual appreciation of the passing moment …

To give up busyness … is to seek to walk through the door of the present moment into the world of spiritual delights and challenges.