The Value of Rest

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So, I haven’t posted for quite the while. Journeys always have unexpected fjords and canyons and valleys and mountains to cross you see. My most recent obstacles consist of preparing for my final exams and applying to universities. Thus, considering that I am under pressure, and that I haven’t posted in a while, I wanted to write about the value of rest.

You see, there are two perspectives which have danced across my mind. One is that I, at the moment of writing, need a rest from stress and studying- hence I am writing. Two is that I, in the past few weeks, needed a rest from writing- hence I still haven’t posted the next installment of Lessons from the Elements. The situation brings to mind various old proverbs about work:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.


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You see, the idea is that eventually any endeavour which yields rewards will become tedious if you treat it like work. There are many real life examples of this principle. A person starts a blog and puts out two posts everyday for three days and then never touches their blog again. A child goes to school and is incredibly excited on the first day but by the end of the term they loathe school and long for the holidays. Funnily, by the end of the holidays many people long for school.

And so we come to this idea, or principle if you like, of Rest. Now rest (note the lowercase ‘r’) by definition means “cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.” What I would like to draw your attention to is the word ‘work’ in that definition. Who decides what work is? Is work something tedious or is it simply an activity? I am going to suggest that we use the idea of work as “that which we feel we must do even if we do not derive pleasure from the act itself.”

The problem then with ‘resting’ is that we are ceasing to work. Why is this a problem? Well because if we are ceasing to work it means we got to the stage where we were, as a matter of fact, working. So we were doing that which we felt we must do even though we were not deriving pleasure from it.

The principle of Rest is that we never get to a stage where we find ourselves having to cease working- because we will never work at all. I strongly believe that if we never work we will be vastly more productive than those who are working. The principle of Rest is thus: to ensure that all activities in which we engage remain pleasing to us in and of themselves. Allow me to elaborate. In the situation where a man goes to a boring job which he thoroughly hates, he is working. He does derive pleasure from the money his job brings, but then he is not deriving pleasure in the act itself. Simply, he is working.

We must do all things in such a way that we continuously enjoy the act of the thing itself. I am writing right now not because I will gain pleasure from people reading my little blog (although that is a pleasure) but because I enjoy writing. Do you see then that the pleasure I gain from you reading this is then simply surplus? And that if nobody reads this at all I wont feel robbed- but the man I described above would certainly feel robbed if he received less pay.

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Ah but how? That is a very difficult question to answer. The first step is simple enough: recognise the natures of work, rest, and Rest. The second, I imagine, is to balance everything you do as a regular activity with something opposite in nature. Sometimes I need a break from writing so I read. Sometimes I need a break from reading so I write. Sometimes I need a break from words so I watch YouTube.

Unfortunately I cannot give you a formula. In part the answer is cliche: do what you enjoy. Do not be fooled by the fact that this is cliche however. Recognise that it is a cliche for a reason- it’s true. The moment you do something you don’t enjoy you are working.

There is only one solution I can see in light of that cliche.

  • Step one: recognise the natures of work, rest, and Rest.
  • Step two: balance all activities you do.
  • Step three: do what you enjoy.
  • Step four: enjoy what you do.

Wait what? Enjoy what you do? What are you even saying? You just repeated yourself you blithering idiot! All these useless words scrawled across a page basically telling everybody something they already know in slightly abstract sentences to make yourself seem smart and to make people feel bad about themselves so they try to change their lives while you don’t even take your own advice what exactly are you getting at I cannot even handle myself right now I’m going to f-*

Shush. It is very simple. Enjoy what you do means to find something to enjoy in everything you do. Ultimately there will be activities we are forced to do. That would mean then that we are going to be forced into work by life. So no. We deserve to live in the best way possible. Towards that goal our brains grant us the ability to change our perceptions. If we are forced into doing something there will always be some reason to enjoy it. I was forced to go on a boot camp for gr.11. I didn’t want to. I did not want to walk 30km with a 14kg pack whilst carrying a four man tent. I worked for about half of the first day of the camp. Then I Rested. I Rested because I found something in the activity to enjoy and focused solely on that. It’s the only reason I did not give up.

Realise the power you have within yourself to dictate what is work and what is play and you will be able to accomplish far more than you thought possible.

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*That little rant in bold was me taking a break from writing so seriously, sorry if the blog post was a bit ramble-y. 

The Ones That Watch

Here’s a question for the ages: is there a god? What of this one: what happens when we die? Even better: why should we care? For many, these questions do not enter their minds until they are lying awake at 2.13 am on a Saturday morning staring at their ceiling in the shroud of night. For some, the questions come when they get tired of being forced into churches which seem, on the whole, boring and dour- often discriminatory even. Yet still for others, these are questions which we ponder as we go about day to day life in some sort of effort to find meaning, or lack thereof, both of which are greater than ourselves.

In ancient Celtic culture the druids worshipped spirits of nature, believing in a life force that extends and flows through all. On the other side of the world, in Japan, people followed Shinto and worshipped kami, spirits of nature, believing in a life force that extends and flows through all. Wait, something sounds rather similar there.

In some Native American tribes the Great Spirit was worshipped. Half way across the world the Jews worshipped the god YHWH. In Norse culture Odin was honoured as the All-Father. In Christianity God the Father is revered. Again, similarities.

One step further takes us to similarities in other Eastern cultures, from Hinduism to Zen Buddhism. And anywhere we look, especially in Africa, we find some sort of ancestor worship.

… and so?

Well firstly we see a need to answer the previously posed questions. Secondly we find commonalities in the methods of answering those questions. But with what relevance to us? Why should an atheist, for example, care about any of this?

I’d like to forward the argument that we are all seeking something greater than ourselves not to comfort us, but to hold us accountable for our actions and to combat the little points of vain pride which cause our downfall. Some chase after money and feed their pride in an attempt to be happy, but so often we hear stories of how these people fail. Instead, it always seems to be the humble who are happiest.

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To the theist, God reigns supreme and guides us and holds us to account. For the theist, God is an ultimate expression of our utter helplessness. To the animist, we are connected to all that exists, and thus to harm something is to harm ourselves in the process. To the atheist, the knowledge that nothing supernatural exists confirms the complete meaninglessness of life and forces them to hold themselves accountable to the greater purpose of serving humanity. It is a sad reflection of humanity that we take such noble ideas and turn them into means for hatred and conflict. Indeed the Ones that Watch, be they YHWH and the angels, or Vishnu and Krishna, or even the great intellectuals of the past, must feel great sadness at watching humanity divide itself.

From my own theology, traditional though it is, I look out and see the fruits of eclecticism. Even when I was atheist I could see the immense beauty that shone from religion and human fortitude- a light bright enough to shine even through the wars and deaths that we had tainted it with.

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Should we all come together one day before some cosmic jury, our kind will be found wanting. More than that, our religious and non-religious prophets, who claimed to speak truth to us, would be guilty of our sorry state for warping and corrupting the Image of God. And when I say the Image of God I mean the purity that exists in all those ideas I spoke of earlier.

But, you may say, what is pure about recognising yourself as flawed? What is pure about believing yourself to be inconsequential in the universe? Conversely, what is pure about believing yourself to be an intrinsic part of the universe?

The purity and importance of these ideas manifest in two ways. The first, is the ability to give your life meaning by placing it in relation to the world and those around you. If you treat yourself as a servant, thinking of others before yourself, you can come to a state where instead of asking “Why me?” when things go wrong, you instead can ask “Why not me?” This, far from being negative and self-destructive, is empowering and liberating because not only can you use your suffering to help others, but you can also fully appreciate and empathise with others when they suffer. If all humanity regarded each other in this manner, I dare say we would have a far more equal and beautiful society.

Helping Each Other

The second, is the ability to defeat yourself. Now, what I mean here is the ability to defeat your ego, I say ‘yourself’ because, for most of us, our ego is the self that we portray to others and the self which attacks our inner self. When you recognise yourself as intrinsically flawed you begin to deconstruct the pride of your ego which causes you to harm others and yourself. I’ll probably dedicate another post to pride somewhere along the line.

Ultimately, purity is found first in ideas and ideals. Through careful thought, and sometimes acceptance, of these ideas we begin to transform ourselves into purer, happier beings. There is no reason that we can’t believe that gods and spirits both exist and don’t exist at the same time. Why? Because we can all be certain that, at the very least, they exist in our minds and in our textbooks. Dedicating one’s life to science, dying as a warrior defending one’s clan, and giving to the poor are all acts of surrender to some greater ideal which we ourselves seek to become a part of.

So, this was really just me writing as thoughts came to mind, but hopefully it was at least interesting, if not helpful in some way. Peace be with you.

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