In popular culture, doing business is synonymous with taking action. Flip open a magazine about business or entrepreneurship and you’ll see articles and imagery about design scrums, mergers, stocks and sales, commercial transportation options, the best ways to expand, and ideal places to travel on your down time.
Vacations, too, are framed in terms of activity: hunting for a region’s best restaurants, heading to the waterfront or mountains for an adventure away from the office, and exploring galleries, exhibitions, and touring festivals. Advertising promises we can absorb the best of a town “in 18 hours!” and perhaps we can, but by the time anyone could possibly account for all of the recommended destinations and detours, they’d have worked enough to merit another vacation.
The challenge for our time isn’t filling the hours of the day. We’ve mastered that. Our deep challenge is releasing the vise grip of clock-time and calendars, knowing when and how to pause, and how to take the liberty to rest, refrain, and recover even when the culture around us is ambivalent about it.
I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist community, a comparatively small 150-year-old Christian denomination that teaches the observance of a weekly Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Sabbath is still one of my favorite spiritual practices: beyond its many theological and sociological rationales, Sabbath is a material and embodied reminder that everything that lives participates in an in-breath as well as an out-breath, reception as well as expression, rest as well as activity. Hustlers, business-builders, and worldchangers need that reminder.
The body constitutes a site of divine revelation.” —M. Shawn Copeland
As much as “the social body constrains the way the physical body is perceived” (Mary Douglas), it’s the physical body that limits not only what we can perceive on our own but also frames, through shared mental structures such as metaphor and analogy, how we organize and interpret the data that comes to us through our senses and all that we experience through our bodies (Beatrice Bruteau, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, and Richard Beck).
Even more: we live in a world where law and convention each regulate our bodies, our enfleshed us. In this world, social systems frame some bodies as ripe for hyper-analysis and suspicion when alive and fit for dissection and critique after death.
Andreas Vesalius, father of modern dissection, was neither the first nor the last to imagine that one could extract more wisdom from a tortured, dead, or carved-up body than from living bodies, pulsing and mobile, unpredictable, and capable of talking and pushing back.
As someone just four generations removed from people whose Christian slavers refused them the liberty to rest when their bodies demanded it, the capacity to cease work is sacred to me. And as someone driven to make, to investigate, to develop, to teach, to heal, and to help in a world with no off-switch, the disciplines of rest and listening are a critical counterbalance for me.
This weekend, Sabbath meets me away from home and work near what used to be the Cabrini-Green projects of North Chicago. Now “redeveloped,” that is, gentrified, this block hosts an expanding mostly White, middle-class mega-church and out-of-town tourists like me. We’re in town this weekend for the 2016 Justice Conference (#Justice16) and I’m most excited about hearing from Mark Charles (@wirelesshogan).
Charles is a Navajo writer and consultant who teaches about the Doctrine of Discovery, the complicity of religion in the Western Hemisphere’s genocides, and the United States’ desperate need to tell the truth about the violations that scar its social body. These violations are ongoing, not merely historical. We sustain this pace of frenetic activity despite that ongoing injury, and that’s about as wise as running a marathon on a broken hip.
Charles calls us to pause, to stop and take stock. To stop acting long enough to allow truth to bubble up through layers of dehumanization and injustice. To stop acting long enough for all us to move from oppression and confession to lament and deep change.
What does justice look like when everything you have is stolen, when the entire system is corrupt?” —Mark Charles
I’ll share more tomorrow.