Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sabbath, Chaos, and Control

As I continue on through Bill McKibben's difficult, disturbing Eaarth, my reflections on Maryann McKibben-Dana's (no immediate relation) book about Sabbath continue to echo about in my head.

One of the threads that repeated several times in that thought-provoking book was the idea of Sabbath as that place where we permit chaos to enter.  Sabbath becomes that place where we stop pouring ourselves into the structures that frame our lives, the schedules and demands and expectations that leave us continually anxious, ever behind, always stressed and struggling.  It is energy, not form.  It is freedom, not order.

I feel that, but I found myself wondering if it is something else.  A Sabbath day is not random, and it is not disordered.  It is free, yes, but when I take sabbath time...long meditative walks, times to write or draw, times to read and grow...they do not feel like chaos.  They feel calm.  They feel serene and ordered and at peace.

It's a different order.

The structure of sabbath matches the intent of creation.  Our crazy, competitive, acquisitive stresstival of striving does not.   It is a poor match for the Creator's intent.  It feels like chaos, or at least like a structure so poorly suited to change that it shakes us violently, tossing us about as it itself is tossed.

What does striving look like?  What does sabbath look like?  My mind went for visuals.   And as I thought that, I found myself drawing out an image from a movie, as I often do.   It was from the movie "Contact," a delightful bit of hard sci fi direct from the mind of dear ol' Carl Sagan himself.

In the scene, Jodie Foster is being sent to meet with extraterrestrial intelligences that have contacted humanity, in a device whose design has been provided by those intelligences.  Humanity has made one modification to that design:  the command chair in which she sits.

That chair, my metaphor-mind suggested, is our scheduled life.  And sabbath?  Sabbath arrives at the three minute mark of this little video snippet.