Sabbath: Good for Non-Believers Too

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Commentator Andrei Codrescu is not religious, but observes the Sabbath as a time to care to his own personal needs. He shuts out the world and work. He speaks about the cleansing effect this observance has on him.


Commentator Andrei Codrescu has his own beliefs, among them a belief that a day of rest is becoming more important all the time.


Years ago my friend Myron Katz gave me this advice: Keep the Sabbath. That's all. He said he didn't care what I thought about religion, whether I did anything ritual like prayer, song or meditation. The only thing that mattered was keeping the Sabbath.

Over time I've come to agree with Myron. If you can, and almost anybody can, try to take off a whole day to do nothing. Don't answer the phone, don't write newspaper columns, make no big decisions. Give yourself slack. The poet Allen Ginsberg put it another way. Be kind to yourself, Harry. Take one day of the week and be kind to yourself. Don't drive yourself where you don't want to go. Don't drive yourself insane. Don't drive. Look out through half-closed lids at a tree or the building across the street. Stay unfocused, unintentional, indeterminate. Let everything flow through you like it's water or wind. Don't stop it with thoughts, ideas or judgment. Don't try to figure out how it fits in your five-year plan.

For one day a week forget pedagogy, self-incrimination, disapproval, political rage. Let it be a cliche if it has to, or just let it. It's the Sabbath. Something or other is going on on Earth, under the Earth, on top of the Earth; maybe it's leaves falling or new catastrophes brewing, but whatever they are you're only just a stick of flesh holding on to your Sabbath. They'll be back tomorrow--the bills, the troubles and the work. Today you're on sabbatical, and there is nothing they can do to you if you don't invite them.

The sabbatical, like Myron said, doesn't have to be justified. God took his on the seventh day to be alone, not because he wanted to be bothered by prayers, incense, lamentations and pleas. He was hoping that you'd do the same. That's all. If for one day a week, every creature looked after itself without worrying about anything else, creation would become instantly self-evident and there would be no need to fix everything.

All that said, there are people who don't have the luxury of a day off. They have to dig themselves out of rubble, tend to a wound, swim for life or get down from a tree. OK, but when they've dug out and haven't died, they should keep the Sabbath. All suffering can wait.

BLOCK: Andrei Codrescu teaches at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

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