Tag Archives: spirituality

Reflections on the Sabbath, 1

Ostensibly, class discussion in my Religion & Ecology class today was to center upon our readings on Judaic attitudes towards nature, and any substantial differences in environmental viewpoints between Judaism and Christianity. I’ll readily admit that I didn’t do any of the week’s readings, as I’ve had papers due in the past three consecutive days, including today’s Religion & Ecology paper which I successfully completed in 1.5 hours the morning of class. Prof. Wallace acknowledged that many other students would likely sit in the same boat, so instead conversation steered towards concepts grounded in more practical questions raised by the reading.

I won’t go into the details of how this conversation arose, or the myriad responses, but one question regarded whether a ‘Sabbath of the mind’ could be possible at Swarthmore, or anywhere else. That is, whether one could get a day off just to rest the mind.

Though it doesn’t take a full day, I know what I like to do for a sabbath of the mind. When I go birdwatching, I’m not only having fun in a hobby of mine, but the long walks provide a time for thought and reflection, on how things are going, where things are going, and where things have been. Sometimes, these thoughts can get pretty inconsequential and silly, like trying to optimize my fantasy football squad’s starting roster. Which clearly requires more thought, looking at my disappointing 1-3 start despite relative statistical success. But at least for a few hours, I can take my mind off classes and focus on the peaceful, reflective strolls through the woods.

What do others do for a sabbath of the mind? A couple of people brought up partying, and that struck me as completely wrong. Not because I have anything against parties, but I don’t feel like that constitutes as a sabbath of the mind. When I think of what a Sabbath is, I imagine a restful, reflective mental engagement on life and current issues. Partying is more of an escape rather than a reflection, and it strikes me as being more fun rather than peaceful, and I don’t feel like that fits within the spirit of the Sabbath. I think of it more as a day of rest, not a day of fun. Obviously that’s just my personal view on the term, others could have completely different opinions on what a Sabbath is and how to treat it.

Do these differing views have to do with our feelings about the work we do? The need for fun on the weekends seems to imply that the work on the weekdays is justifiably un-fun, and so a treat and a pick-me-up are needed. I don’t know why that’s not the position I’ve adopted, it’s certainly not because I view work as being fun, haha. But I don’t really mind it either, truth be told. In fact, I don’t really tend to think about work a lot, I just sit down and get it done when necessary, then completely forget that it existed. I do have plenty of fun on the weekdays, not in the partying sense, but just in a social sense, or sometimes in a ‘spiritual’ sense though I’m not a spiritual person. I can’t think of another term to describe personal, internal joy that comes from reading a nice article, hearing good music, or anything else individually related. In general though, I don’t need to have special fun on the weekends, as I have plenty of fun during the week, and I don’t view work as being particularly un-fun. Those who want to have fun on the weekends are likely those who view work as a desperately exhausting chore, which certainly isn’t an unusual or despicable approach, but it’s just not the way I personally approach things.

The one thing I really don’t feel like I have a lot of time for during the week is reflection. There’s a lot of work to be done, both schoolwork and social work, and I don’t often get the chance to sit back and think about things. When I do get the urge to relax, take a break, and reflect on things, that’s when I head for the long trails, with my binoculars hanging from my left shoulder and a field guide in my pocket, after all, why not, if I’m heading outside.

I suppose I’m a solitary person by nature in that way; my most relaxing moments occur when I’m by myself completely, and I always look forward to returning to my room, as it acts as a recharger for my spirit. I don’t really feel like I relax when I’m with other people, I can certainly have fun, but for me fun is completely removed from relaxation. I’ve read that such a belief is a key difference between introverts and extroverts: introverts recharge by returning to their homes and doing things by themselves, while extroverts recharge by being with their friends. That certainly isn’t a black-and-white divide, it’s undoubtedly more of a continuum. But I definitely find myself acting as more of an introvert. I really like how that study used the concept of ‘recharging’, as I feel like that’s a really accurate description of what it’s like for me to return home.

When I first opened up this blog to non-bird-related posts, I was afraid of turning into one of those sensitive emo-bloggers who turn to their blogs as a diary where they could cry about their life’s dramas. That’s really the complete opposite of my persona, but this post is really dangerously toeing the line. I’m glad I stopped myself here. Then again, if I’m not an overly emotional person to begin with, I probably wouldn’t even have that sort of post in me.

Links, then:

  • Time-lapse video of a drive from Olympia to Seattle.
  • The capital of Iceland turned off all the lights one night so that people could see the stars. Find out when you can see the stars from your town.
  • Photo slideshow of ridiculous treehouses you can buy if you’re too lazy to build your own.
  • Go inside the Sultan of Brunei’s private jet.
  • Continuing on the extravagant theme, watch a video explaining the processes behind the most expensive carwash in the world.
  • And onto elegantly artistic but fully functional wooden computers to pass on to your kids and your grandkids.
  • Also wooden, but far less elegant or functional are these wooden cellphones. Wut.
  • This came up in our Sociology of Law course: a very good breakdown of the 2004 Presidential Election, concerning what specific demographic groups voted for whom. I would likely classify myself with the Upbeats.
  • The pride of Taiwan started Game 1 for the Yankees last night, go Chien-Ming Wang!
  • One guy has decided to drink a cup of coffee from every single Starbucks in the world.
  • If you get your caffeine from soda instead, here’s a nice online store of gourmet sodas.
  • A uniquely designed Periodic Table of Elements, taking into account the unusual properties of hydrogen.
  • More games to test your mouse skills.
  • I’ve recently become re-addicted to Sudoku because of Sudoku Slam, which has some really cool features, and overtakes Web Sudoku as the best Sudoku site on the web in my opinion. Try out Sumo Mode. I’m a huge fan of the Highlight Candidates feature. When I get a Smart Hint on the harder puzzles though, I don’t really understand what the colored squares are supposed to be mean. If somebody gets it, please explain to me, I would really appreciate it, thanks. Edit: I just noticed that they posted an explanation. Pretty powerful method, I’ll admit.
  • If you need to write an abstract for your report, or just need to make a paper a little shorter, let Microsoft Word highlight the important points for you. Actually works pretty well, it’s almost like Microsoft is competent!
  • Wallet 2.0 looks like a fairly nifty and organized wallet for all you hipsters. Be sure to check out the completely absurd companion comic. I don’t understand what’s going on here at all.
  • “…A human head remains in a state of consciousness for one and a half minutes after decapitation, and people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute in a ‘heightened state of emotion’. Simple math means that the heads in each of Butler’s 62 stories get exactly 240 words for their narratives — first-person, stream-of-consciousness glimpses of the lives they led.” This book looks unbelievably interesting. The beheaded folk, by the way, include many historical figures such as Marie Antoinette, John the Baptist, and even Medusa.
  • “Using specialist techniques, thousands of portraits of individual people have been compacted to provide a representative male and female “look” for the 160,000 residents of Sydney.”
  • An elevator without a floor?! Amazing.
  • Very good card trick, very well done.
  • Interesting article on why football teams should not punt on fourth down. A more qualitative approach can also be found here.
  • And I just had to save the best for last. For those of you who don’t know, Ryan Adams is a critically acclaimed alt-country singer-songwriter. I really like a few of his songs, in particular the opening two songs on his debut ‘Heartbreaker’. But he’s gone kind of insane recently, sending long rambling messages on critics’ voice mail machines, among other things. But nothing can top this. Ryan Adams just updated his official website, replete with the most unbelievably terrible/hilarious rap song I have ever heard. You have to listen to it all the way through, it’s quite amazing at the beginning, but takes a turn for the incredible close to the end. Lyrics can also be found here. This is simply comedy gold. I have not loled this hard in months.

I’m liking the random baby in there.