One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping is leisure. It is what cultural historian Witold Rybczynski calls “waiting for the weekend,” where we see work as only an extended interlude between our real lives. Leisure is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to sanctify time. Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred. It is a vacation – literally, a vacating, an evacuation. As Rybczynski sees it, leisure has become despotic in our age, enslaving us and exhausting us, demanding from us more than it gives.
We all know how unsatisfying mere leisure can be. We’ve all known what it’s like to return to the classroom or the workplace after a time spent in revelry or retreat, in high jinks or hibernation: typically, we go back weary and depressed, like jailbirds caught. The time away from work wasn’t time sanctified so much as time stolen, time when we escaped for a short-lived escapade.
The difference between this and Sabbath couldn’t be sharper. Sanctifying some time adds richness to all time, just as an hour with the one you love brings light and levity to the hours that follow. To spend time with the object of your desire is to emerge, not sullen and peevish, but elated and refreshed. You come away filled, not depleted. (Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, pp. 35–36)
Archive for January 2013
I’m following with considerable interest the discussions stemming from Patrick Deneen’s “Unsustainable Liberalism” article in First Things this past summer. We’re starting to hear a lot (e.g., here and here) that the raw polarity of Right and Left in the United States (grimly illustrated in the last election season and beyond) is completely unfruitful, that the stock “conservative” and “liberal” options have gone stale, and that “third ways” are the need of the hour. I think Deneen offers some profound insights as to why this might be the case and how we got here, though his critics aren’t persuaded that he’s right in condemning the American liberal experiment to its foundations. Vincent Phillip Muñoz, for example, wants to distinguish the temptations to which modern liberalism has succumbed from the liberalism asserted in the Declaration of Independence (Deneen responds here). Nathan Schlueter argues that we need to recover, more specifically, the “natural law liberalism” of our founding, which is quite different from its competitors – “social contract liberalism” and “classical liberalism” (Deneen responds here). Most recently, Peter Augustine Lawler has weighed in, and I’m reliably informed that more critical interactions are forthcoming. It’s an exciting and timely conversation.