Pleasantly surprised by how well this came together and greatly encouraged by the response it received. Filmed at the Liberate Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/22:
We continue our tradition of anonymous Ash Wednesday reflections on rest:
…the night cometh, when no man can work.
-John 9:4, KJV
Four hours last week, followed by a full day of breakneck productivity. Those of us who pride ourselves on working without sleep find solace in our indefatigable nocturnal spirits, sustained by too many cigarettes and too much caffeine. Sleep is the last frontier, someone once said. Humans only have to transcend our embarrassingly creaturely need for sleep, and we can double our productivity. As Roger Ekirch discusses in his recent At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, people used to see night as a time for vital rest and leisure, more than a mere “dormant interlude between working hours”, as he puts it, night in various times past was divided into ‘watches’, structured with an quasi-liturgical respect. I’m proud to need little sleep sometimes. It allows me to function outside the limits of the dead zone, an eight-hour interval which seems to shrink as the demand for productivity rises.
Sometimes it’s something productive, like a book or article. Other times, it’s one more beer, another cigarette on the porch, another episode of How I Met Your Mother. It’s as if leisure is some active salve that must be applied to a day’s work, and going to bed earlier can make you miss out on leisure, too. It’s effectively a fear of missing out. We’re overwhelmed by a bevvy of experiences during the day, and even more activity has to heal the stress. We procure this healing for ourselves with TV or other activities. Leaving things be is difficult. And if the day has been unfulfilling, we can delay going to sleep, admitting defeat; instead I want to re-raise the stakes with a losing hand, salvage the miniscule ante.
Sleep is a daily brush with death. It’s the closest we come to death’s passivity, that total negation of experience and selfhood. And yet death seems more inevitable so sleep, for now, is the last frontier: vanquish that and we have more time to fulfill ourselves, to develop into those ideal, actualized men and women we yearn to be. But it catches up: even if science finds some way to solve the lack of energy after a bad night’s sleep (or a full string of them), it will not be able to address the anxiety and grumpiness. That burden of selfhood and fulfillment-chasing does catch up, eventually.
Buy stock in Sleepytime® tea. We find it harder to sleep than ever now, and the aids we need progressively more of are selling, cropping up in new stores every day. With all our activity, the efficiency provided by computers and modeling and instruments and machinery, the one thing we’re getting worse at is sleep. It feels too much like death, because it sort of is. So much missing out, so many opportunities for achievement or leisure or self-fulfillment we are missing. On Ash Wednesday, we receive the imposition of ashes: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Life “imposes” sleep on us as a daily reminder of mortality. And that involuntary and unchosen imposition relieves us, above all, from our restless and irrepressible daily justifications. May we remember we are dust, and there find God’s rest.
Recently a friend asked me to recommend something that a young man considering a call to ordination might profitably read. I went through “the usual suspects” (i.e., Bishop Lightfoot, John Stott, W.H. Griffith-Thomas), but actually came up with a novel, or rather a novella, to help him spell out the issues.
It is sometimes true that a work of art — a song or painting or short story or movie — gets through to me in a way that propositional non-fiction, say Bishop Lightfoot’s treatise on the ministry, does not, or maybe even cannot. I believe this is because music or…
Another Week Ends: Secret Auden, Eagleton Deicide, Remembering Wes, Method Acting, True Detective, and Russian Tourist Tips
1. Holy smokes! Have you read Edward Mendelson’s “The Secret Auden” in the NY Review of Books?! If not, run don’t walk. It’s a jaw-dropping, incredibly inspiring catalog of the clandestine episodes of grace initiated by our all-time favorite Wystan–about as honest a Matthew 6:5 vibe as I’ve come across in ages. Lest these remarkable stories be dismissed as mere hagiography, Mendelson (author of the indispensable Later Auden) doesn’t lionize the great poet, instead tracing the ‘good works’ back to their root–which is not a sense of earning or credit (clearly) but of genuine humility brought on by piercing self-knowledge….
Sometimes, but maybe not as well as we’d like to think. I work in a downtown pedestrian area, and on any given walk to a coffeeshop or lunch spot, if the weather’s nice there will be environmentalists, Global Medical Brigades reps, pro-Tibetans, and other generally worthy and important causes. ‘Did you know…”. I can say, personally, that I do know, most of the time, what’s going on – I just tend not to act on it. I know the environment’s deteriorating but am often too lazy to recycle, etc. The assumption behind raising awareness is that if more people know…
It doesn’t get any, er, tastier than this. I’m referring to the amazing little piece (of m-bait) that appeared on The Daily Beast this past weekend, “Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience” by Michael Schulson. We’ve been down this road a number of times before, but Schulson outdoes himself here, highlighting the undeniable religiosity that lies at the heart of so much of our culinary and health culture these days. That is, food is much more than food–and always has been, though perhaps not to the current extent. Purity, Status, Mortality, Justification, even Atonement–these are the subjects we find ‘messaged’…
Some thoughts on grace and the new LEGO movie come from Michael Belote, author of the wonderful reboot:Christianity blog and author of Rise of the Time Lords, doubtless the best (review here) geeky intro to Christian doctrine available.
Something weird is happening in Hollywood. Just four months ago, the world was introduced to Frozen, a children’s movie chock-full of theological nuance. As I wrote at the time, I felt like this was the best religious movie in years, and figured it would be quite a while until I saw something similar.
Boy was I wrong.
A few weeks ago, I took my sons (who are…
EPISODE 163: Deetour
The Contraption just keeps getting bigger. And I sort of wish He’d stop.
This podcast shows Him widening His sphere of influence. Is the “widening” welcome? Well, yes, if you believe that Karen Young, in her magnificent song “Deetour”, speaks the truth. (How can what she sings be denied?)
I also talk about job searches in the parish ministry, and rector search committees. (How could one have been so blind?) Blame it on the Contraption!
Episode 163 is dedicated to JAZ, the Minister of Edits.
EPISODE 164: Happy Clappy
I feel like in order to begin, you have to come to the end….
A few thoughts on some recent Internet Prodigal Son banter, from David Zahl and Will McDavid:
As much as I admire The NY Times, it’s not where I go to read about grace. You? And yet, David Brooks was back at it again this week, talking about the parable of the prodigal son(s) and endorsing grace as an essential factor in crafting social policy for those who’ve squandered their inheritance/potential/goodwill. Check it out:
We live in a divided society in which many of us in the middle- and upper-middle classes are like the older brother and many of the people who drop…
This one comes to us from Netflix aficionado/guru Joe Nooft:
It’s over. The carnage is finished. Some blood may have been shed, but we made it; we survived. Yes, Valentine’s Day came and went. Your sentiment to its 362 day hibernation probably banks on your personal Facebook status, or maybe the functionality of your love life. Depending on your relational footing, last week may have been on the receiving end of a stubborn battering ram armed with personal complaints, all strategically targeting last Friday’s holiday. Or perhaps you drowned last week in an overflow of pastel colored, heart shaped candies, tattooed…
Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters
1. In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik took the release of two new books about the history of atheism to issue one of his periodic ‘state of modern belief” pieces. Most of the word count is devoted to the question of when the burden of proof definitively shifted from atheists to believers (The Onion weighs in here), and while there are certainly some interesting tidbits, one can’t help but be distracted by: first, wasn’t the exact opposite thing was being said five years ago?, and second, the dichotomy he embraces from one of the books is downright weird, at least…
Perhaps this would fit under PZ’s “Religions that Aren’t Called Religions,” as an Ideology. Or perhaps this is simply its own religion, the religion of Health, the religions of Fitness and Nutrition, of Kale Chips. But it could be easily replaced with almost anything–Sound Investments, Good Hair, Child-Rearing–anything that promises we will never die, and thus leaves us missing out on what’s enjoyable about actually, really living. This comes from Capon’s amazing Health, Money and Love (and Why We Don’t Enjoy Them)
“Isn’t it true that the eating habits of most Americans are killing them?” My answer is no. People die…