This reflective essay asks you to stake a claim based on a one-day experiment together with the readings from the last two weeks about the value of “freedom from work” (whether you call it leisure, laziness, karma-yoga, rest, diversion, play, game, or entertainment) in today’s hyper connected reality.
In other words, where do you stand in a spectrum running from Blaise Pascal’s intuition that “man’s unhappiness [misery] arises from one thing alone: that he cannot remain quietly in his room” (38) and Ana Levy-Lyons’ argument that the genius of the historical Hebrews’ religious requirement to keep the Sabbath “was that sometimes the most politically radical use of time is not to use it efficiently, but rather to squander it”?
Description of the Assignment
This assignment requires some preparatory writing. Begin by taking note of a typical day in your life: how do you use your time? Account for your daily activity in detail: what do you do, where, with whom, why, and what effect does it have on you? For example: does the activity, or lack thereof, energize, bore, anger, exhaust, inspire, disgust, gratify you? How much time do you normally spend in activities that Arendt would classify as labor, work, action, or vita contemplativa? How much do you spend on activities that could be classified as playful or gameful? What about aspects that stand outside these categories, such as care and socialization? Remember our discussion on “studying” which can enter into different categories depending on the attitude and purpose of the endeavor.
Then, set aside one period of 12 waking hours during your break where you will purposefully withdraw from self-driven work and either follow the schedule according to the Rule of St Benedict (see attached) to regulate your day’s rhythm of activity and inactivity or a schedule based on the observance of Jewish Sabbath (see attached). If allowed during this period, take notes on your experience, pay particular attention to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily awareness (for example, does the passage of time seem slower/faster? Do you daydream or become restless? Do you become more aware of your bodily functions, from breathing to hunger? What effect does this awareness have on you: Do you become anxious or curious? Do you enjoy food/music/walking/reading more or less? Why do you think that is?
Compare the record of the two experiences (“busy” day and day “off”) and write a reflective essay where you claim your stand in relationship to the idea of rest and work as we have studied it through our common readings and informed by your experience. Are you more likely to agree with Blaise Pascal on “Diversion,” or with Messud when it comes to boredom? With Exodus 20:11 where the fourth commandment to observe the Sabbath was instituted (“because for six days, the L-rd made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and on the seventh day, he rested; therefore, the L-rd blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.”) or with Levy-Lyons’ political interpretation of the commandment? What about Stilnovic on laziness or Huizinga on play?
How does the experiment help you understand what is meant by “work” and “rest”? Does the day “off” help you see “busyness” in a different light (look again at the definition of busy) ? What do you learn about freedom? How does this long experiment compare with your experience of five minutes of inactivity which we did in class on 11/05)? What do you take away from the experiment?
Option 1: Benedictine-inspired schedule
3:30 a.m. – Wake up, get dressed, have coffee or water (no food yet, no checking email or other social media)
4:00 a.m. – Vigils walk to a designated place where you will listen to inspirational music (spiritual or secular, your choice) and read aloud from a sacred text (Bible, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Mahabharata, Ramayana, the Upanishads, Rabbi Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, Voragine’s Lives of the Saints, aka Golden Legend, texts by Rabindranath Tagore, poetry of your choice) 1 hour. Followed by lectio divina choose a short poem to read and chew over (ruminate), meditate on its words for ½ hour
5:45 a.m. – Lauds singing for ½ hour
6:15- 8:30 a.m. – Prepare and eat breakfast; short period to attend to personal matters (hygiene, planning for the rest of the day, begin writing notes on your experience, etc.)
8:45 a.m. – Terce (go to your dedicated space) read or sing aloud for 10-15 minutes
9:00- 12:40 – Work (typically attending to the common spaces, gardening, housekeeping, crafts, etc. If you are so inclined, arrange to volunteer at this time)
1:00 p.m. – Sext (dedicated space) read or sing aloud for 10-15 minutes. Main meal of the day is prepared and eaten. Listen to an inspirational text while eating. Take a brief siesta (the word comes from Latin = sixth hour) or read your chosen text silently
3:30 p.m. – None, ninth hour (dedicated space) read or sing aloud for 10-15 minutes.
5:20 p.m. – Practice playing an instrument, copying out a text (scribal work), translate a short text, begin writing your reflection paper for Coll-C 103
5:50 p.m. – Vespers (dedicated space) read or sing aloud for 10-15 minutes.
6:20 p.m. – Light meal (a glass of milk or cup of yogurt and cereal; toast, cheese and olives; fruit) 30 minutes followed by free time to be employed as in 5:20
7:30 p.m. – Compline (dedicated space) read or sing aloud for 10-15 minutes, followed by nightly silence (you don’t have to go to sleep, but you do need to refrain from communication with the outside world)
Option 2: Sabbath-inspired schedule
The call to remember and observe the Sabbath is the only ritual to be instituted into the commandments God gave to Moses. It is instituted both in remembrance of the act of divine Creation and the liberation of Jews from Egyptian domination therefore the day itself is both a reminder of radical freedom and bonds bringing together humans and the divine. This 24 hour period begins from around 2PM on day one and ends the following evening after the sunset when three stars are visible on the darkened sky. Throughout this period, activities to avoid include: any exchange of money, production or consumption of goods or services not already owned. Any activity that exercises dominion over others or the environment is to be avoided.
Day 1 2-3PM – Stop what you are doing and begin preparations for the holiday: clean the house, bathe, get dressed, cook a festive meal and do any of the work needed for the next three meals, set the table, check the time of sunset, and turn on any lights you will need.
7 PM A few minutes before sunset, light two candles dedicating one to freedom and the other to remembrance. Then read and meditate on a text on either of those topics (Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King Jr speeches, Bible, etc.) 45 mins-1 hour followed by a festive, leisurely dinner. Before eating, recite a song of thanksgiving. As you eat be mindful of the work that went into the production and elaboration of the food you are eating. After dinner, recite a secular song or poem or prayer of thanks (birkat ha-mazon). Talk to those around you (no internet or electronics allowed) or read for an hour or two. Go to bed.
Day 2 8AM – Wake up and welcome the new day
9AM-12PM Read your text in lieu of religious service,
12-3PM Enjoy a second festive, leisurely meal together with the recitation of song/prayer both before and after the meal (important: you have not cooked/bought this second meal! You may reheat something previously prepared, but it shouldn’t be left-overs since that is hardly festive!)
3-6 PM Take a walk, talk to friends and family, read your texts on freedom (or the Bible or Torah) or read for pleasure, take a nap or a long bath, tell stories, sing (no musical instruments may be played), look at photo albums, play non-gambling board or salon games (charades, genius, etc. Note that you cannot write to keep score or to play). Eat one last light meal.
Approximately 40 minutes after sunset conclude the observance of the holiday/experiment by singing a mournful song, or reciting an elegiac poem. The purpose of this ritual is to bid goodbye to the special time of Sabbath and welcome to the routine of the week (equivalent of Havdalah)
Common Class Readings-
Pascal- Diversion- Attached files
Stilnovic– laziness- Attached Files
Huizinga on play– Attached Files
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