The Insider - October 2022
The radical choice to take a sabbath every week
Welcome to the October edition of the Insider. This one is a bit different; I'll be returning to the normal Insider structure next month.
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Reflections on a Sabbatical
I am diving into the next chapter of my career in November (I’m excited to share about what’s ahead in the next Insider), which means my sabbatical is coming to an end. One of the sabbatical intentions I set seven months ago when I left Uncharted was to revisit my relationship with time. My approach to time has always been as a resource to be used, a thing to be maximized, something that was instrumentalized as a means to my endless goals and commitments. I knew I could be successful this way, but was this how I wanted to move through time?
I didn’t spend my sabbatical meditating on time in perfect Buddhist equanimity. I still had errands to run, things to do, creative projects to work on, newsletters to write. There were days that felt spacious and unstructured, and there were days when I was over-scheduled or stuck in traffic, late and helpless against the inexorable march of the clock as it ticked upward on my car’s dashboard.
I also punctuated this broader sabbatical with a weekly sabbath: a day of complete rest and unstructured time every Saturday. I began to observe how this day operated under different temporal physics and rules than the other days. It didn’t seem to race by, but instead meandered along. There was less of an adversarial posture of needing to use time and more of an open-hearted posture of seeing how time unfolded and what it would bring with it.
In the introduction to the book The Sabbath written by her father (theologian Abraham Heschel), Susannah Heschel writes: “My father defines Judaism as a religion centrally concerned with holiness in time. Some religions build great cathedrals or temples, but Judaism constructs the Sabbath as an architecture of time.”
Abraham writes: “There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.” He continues, “The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.”
To face sacred moments; this is how I want to move through time. The keeping of the sabbath extends beyond Judaism into other practices, both religious and secular: from the adventists who observe a similar sabbath, to the technologists who lock up the technology they spend the other six days furiously building.
If I have learned anything during my sabbatical, it is this: I would rather set aside one day per week to completely rest in unstructured, meandering time than to take one long sabbatical every five or ten years.
Where there is great privilege in a long sabbatical, there is something countercultural yet accessible in protecting 24 hours each week to fully rest.
As I celebrated another birthday yesterday, I thought about the hope I have that the year ahead will be filled with sacred moments, and how I hope those moments won’t require long sabbaticals or vacations or conditions that are always just out of reach. I believe that these sacred moments are available to each of us to grasp, regardless of our station or circumstance, so long as we’re radical enough to protect them and brave enough to live them.