Friday, February 8, 2013

Sabbath Idling

This morning, it was cold and lightly drizzling, the damp dangling whisker of a winter storm that's pounding the Northeast.   But it wasn't raining hard enough to kick in Dad Protocol Tango, which involves me shuttling the kids down to the bus stop in the Prius.  Poor, fragile creatures that my boys are.  Ahem.

That doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of cars lined up.  There are pretty much every morning, more if it's raining, but there if it's shining, too.  They are running, their engines burbling for warmth and power, middle schoolers sitting in the back seat, waiting for the bus.  The parents are what appears a half and half mix of stay at homers and "Dear God Hurry Up Bus I'm Late" parents.

Today, it being just a few degrees above freezing and damp, there was a small line of cars, all idling.  Clouds of carbon-rich condensate filled the air as I walked past, leaving my twelve-year-old to stand by himself in the rain.

The next bus stop was the same, and and in front of a half-dozen houses in my neighborhood, vehicles sat idling and empty, anticipating the arrival of their driver.

Encountering this standard suburban behavior echoed peculiarly off of the two books I've been reading.

It's Double Down McKibben week for me on the Kindle, as I went from reading Maryann McKibben-Dana's Sabbath in the Suburbs to reading Bill McKibben's Eaarth.  Having read the first, the neurons in my brain that hold the word "McKibben" remembered I'd wanted to read the second.

The first is a book by a pastor in my neck of the woods, one who serves a church just a mile or so from the neighborhood where I grew up.  It's about the struggle to find sabbath time in a dual-career, multi-kid schedule-berzerker American suburban life.  It was a thoughtful, practical and nicely-written book, although I found reading portions of it peculiarly stressful.    Part of that may be that she's just so much more organized and driven than I am.  But perhaps it was more the way those dynamics reminded me of what life had been like before our full-time income disappeared in a downsizing.  Yes, this heartless-CEO-inflicted Sabbath time is nice, but in a few more months, it ain't gonna be so pretty.

The second is a book by an environmentalist, one that declares that climate change is no longer a threat, but our reality.  The title of the book derives from his suggestion that we've basically turned Earth into another planet, less Yavin and more Tatooine, less Bradbury's wildly fecund Mars and more like actual Mars.  He names that planet Eaarth.  The book has been pretty relentlessly horrible, in a "time to stock up on canned food and ammunition" sort of way.  I haven't yet gotten to the recommendations about how we can get by on Eaarth, but if he started talking about Rebreathers and the Water of Life, I wouldn't be surprised.

The common theme to both books?  Our deadly busyness.  The driving, striving churn of suburbia...the thing that makes us stressed and the same cultural engine that's pouring carbon into the atmosphere.

With two texts harmonizing in my head, there was a peculiar irony in all those rushed suburban parents in idling cars, slowly heating their children's world so they can be warm and dry in the moment.  If we were a little more sabbath minded and intentional, who knows what benefits might arise?