Thoughts on Rest

Although I’m really enjoying my experiment with polyphasic sleep, I’ve been troubled by some of the implied values in the rhetoric surrounding its proponents. They desire more productive time in their life and are taking it from they only place they can: a full night’s sleep.

Being productive is a good thing in itself, but industrialization brought with it cold calculations of human worth based on productivity. You are only worth what you produce, and those who don’t or can’t produce are worthless. There is little room for joy or art or play in this view of the world, and there is no space for rest but what is absolutely required.

Rest is a theological concept that has to do with more than just sleep. Rest is connected to the idea of Sabbath, the day of rest mandated for the Jewish people by Yahweh. Sabbath became a broader concept for Christians, who were taught by Jesus that rest is not about legalastic observation of the Sabbath, but rather some broader concept of being in relationship with himself.1

Rest is here seen as a state of being and as a relationship to God in Christ. Rest seems to be a way to describe a life lived in harmony with God and God’s purposes. While productivity is no doubt a part of the rhythms of a restful life, it cannot be the main thing.

So, has my experiment with polyphasic sleep led to a frenzy of productivity? Not really. I’m still adjusting, which means that those extra hours of wakefulness haven’t been of the highest quality. But even when I’ve been alert, I’ve noticed that, so far, I’m not doing that much more, but what I am doing is much less stressful. It seems that having more time in the day produces the novel feeling that there’s enough time. I’m relaxed and unhurried. It’s delightfully strange.

We’ll see how things evolve as I keep on with this. Will I once again fill my waking hours to bursting? Will I maintain the more restful quality of life I’ve been experiencing over the last 2 weeks? Time will tell.

  1. See Mk 2:23-28 and Mat 11:28. 

Belief Makes Meaning Difficult

Terry Eagleton has become one of my go-to authors for pure enjoyment in reading, as he takes on loaded topics with wit, humor and penetrating insight. He had the audacity to pen a book called “The Meaning of Life,” from which this quote comes:

Religious fundamentalism is the neurotic anxiety that without a Meaning of meanings, there is no meaning at all. It is simply the flip side of nihilism. Underlying this assumption is the house-of-cards view of life: flick away the one at the bottom, and the whole fragile structure comes fluttering down. Someone who thinks this way is simply the prisoner of a metaphor. In fact, a great many believers reject this view. No sensitive, intelligent religious believer imagines that non-believers are bound to be mired in total absurdity. Nor are they bound to believe that because there is a God, the meaning of life becomes luminously clear. On the contrary, some of those with religious faith believe that God’s presence makes the world more mysteriously unfathomable, not less. If he does have a purpose, it is remarkably impenetrable. God is not in that sense the answer to a problem. He tends to thicken things rather render them self-evident.

Eagleton, The Meaning of Life, 77.

The last part of that paragraph resonates perfectly with me. When I first became a Christian, I was utterly convinced that life now made perfect sense, and I knew what the meaning of (my) life was. I now see that, firstly, it would be difficult not to see more clearly after I ceased abusing enough drugs to fell an elephant. Secondly, my simple confidence in the meaning of life is no longer simple, but rather assailed with anxiety, doubt, and not a little fear. And this is because of my faith in God.

God seems to have delighted in turning my life upside down, not in just a supposedly instantaneous moment of salvation, but in a style more akin to a car crash that lasts for years and years. Any notion of stability is simply a reprieve from the tumult bound to break in at any second. I don’t know which way is up, and it’s all God’s fault.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I Blog, Therefore…

Mostly just to remind myself: I started this blog as a way to start getting some of my ramblings and musings out of the pinball machine of my brain and into the visible realm.

I was talking to Jac about this strange phenomenon of blogging and I realized that I hadn’t really been posting on here too much because I didn’t have anything to say to anybody. And then I realized that I had deviated from my original intention of blogging. I had fallen into the trap which led Nate to discontinue his blog: I was starting to write for others and judging the validity of what I had to say based on how much feedback I was getting. Well, those days are over.

So, although I will still sometimes use this thing to communicate with people, I’m going to hone the focus here a bit. This is mostly going to be a space for me to get visceral with my thoughts and wrestles. A place to find the rhythm of rest and restlessness that will propel me into my place in God’s kingdom on earth. A place to help me find the sanity that I don’t really have.

So, I’ll leave you all with this thought tidbit: explore the notion of fixed-hour prayer. You should currently see the book called Praying with the Church by Scot McKnight in my sidebar and proceed to purchase it and read it. I, however, got mine for free by reading his blog and getting one of 50 free books his publisher gave away! But I digress…

I haven’t started to actually do this fixed hour prayer, largely because I don’t actually have a book to do so with and I don’t want to do it off the screen. But, here’s a good site that explains fixed-hour prayer in a basic way and gives you a set of prayers for today. If you’re like 99.8% of Protestant Christians, you’re dissatisfied with your prayer life. Count me in. I hope that this path richens my intimacy with God and deepens my faith. Let’s see where this thing leads…

So, it’d be fitting to conclude with the end of the Vesper’s prayer for today: (And you’re supposed to cross yourself when you see the † symbol to remind yourself of the centrality of the cross)

The Prayer Appointed for the Week

Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep me, I pray, from all things that may hurt me, that I, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. †

The Concluding Prayer of the Church

Almighty God, you have surrounded me with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that I, encouraged by their good example; may persevere in running the race that is set before me, until at last I may with them attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. †