20 August 2013

The Internet Manifesto Part IV: Thoughts on Sabbath

My habits regarding Internet usage have slowly, but surely, crept back into the “danger zone.” Here we go again: harried and filled with self-doubt, frantically checking stats and strategies and feeling completely inadequate and dissatisfied. I do have one victory to report! Though I’ve been sorely tempted for personal and business reasons, I have not gone crawling back to that evil, vacuous pit that is Pinterest! Also, miraculously, I have been more productive! Perhaps it’s because I am being more intentional about how I spend my time, but I have a sneaking suspicion that HabitRPG has something to do with it… I’ve long resisted, even joined and quit once or twice, but now I’m in. My character is Level 8 and has a desert lion for a companion. (I know am flirting with an unhealthy obsession and it’s all going to come crashing down on me and I really ought to know better, but for now it’s working, which makes sense, because the only way you can honestly play the game is to actually do the things you say you’re going to do. Clever bastards… they know how to manipulate me so well… just put a pixellated sprite in front of me and I’m powerless to resist).
I’m ready to admit that I can’t maintain the “no internet” goal of half an hour a day that I set back in June. I’ve come to terms with the fact that unless I’m to abandon any serious entrepreneurial endeavors (and many social or artistic ones) I’ll have to use the Internet for more than 30 minutes a day. Jamie and I were without it for five days during the move, and it was TERRIBLE! How did people find the nearest FedEx or Safeway when there was no Internet? Did they just wander around until they found what they were looking for? Oh geez… they didn’t have to ASK people for help, did they?? What a savage world it must have been!

Needless to say, it was an eye-opener to my dependence on the Internet and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s so ingrained in daily life that we HAVE to deal with it, and its only going to get worse. Thus the question becomes not whether or not to use the Internet, but how to use the Internet. However, this too shall pass. Eventually it will be so deeply enmeshed in the framework of life that we won’t even be having these conversations, or it will be replaced by something else. What will remain, I guarantee you (barring the singularity) is our human nature.

This brings us back to what I said in my last Internet Manifesto post: my actual problem is with a lack of self-discipline, which has been a problem in many areas of my life and is not just the reason my use (and abuse) of the Internet has consistently produced negative results. I would totally suck at life less if I had more virtue of character. This is all well and good, and I intend to keep pursuing the idea, but, I was thinking more about it this week and I realized that I had missed a huge piece of the puzzle in identifying why the Internet kept on rotting me from the inside out: Sabbath Rest.
Why Sabbath? Well, let us begin with what it is, and before I go on let me say that I consider myself a Sabbath neophyte. Most of my knowledge and understanding about it is learned from others, especially my dad’s teachings on the subject, and I’m completely lost in the practice of it, but I want to share what I’ve learned with you if you’ll hear me out. If you aren’t religious, just bear with me; I promise this is for everyone.

Some Sabbath Factoids:

  • It’s in the Ten Commandments, which is the same list that the laws “do not murder” and “do not steal” are found in, and it’s pretty specific that everyone (including work animals and slaves) is supposed to take a full day off of their normal work once a week.
  • God took the first Sabbath at creation. On the seventh day, after He had finished making the world and Adam and Eve, He rested. Now, I think a disclaimer is appropriate here: I do not care how the world was physically made, or how long it actually took, or what day of the week the Sabbath is, (because the Bible says very little about all of that) lest we miss the crucial point that even God rested and He seems to think we should follow His example because He put it in the Ten Commandments for Pete’s sake.
  • Sabbath, which comes from the Hebrew word shabbat, literally means “to cease”

So… why is this ancient, biblical practice going to help us combat the negative effects of the Internet? I’m getting there, hold your horses.

One of the most debilitating effects on my well-being that I blame the Internet for is this sense that I can never keep up. My accomplishments are never sufficient. My success is never big enough. My abilities are never adequate. I am endlessly comparing myself, my home, my work, my LIFE to this impossible, made-up standard. I actually believe this lie that I CAN do everything, have everything, be everything (re: Pinterest is evil), and it is crippling. I read these blogs, see these beautiful products on Etsy, hear these success stories and wonder, “what am I doing wrong?”
With some perspective I can easily see how silly my self-doubt is and remember the good work I have accomplished. But when I don’t allow myself that perspective, when I let myself get bogged down and entrenched in that mire of perfectionism and sensationalism and greed and ambition, it’s impossible to see that. And here is where I can’t blame the Internet for this experience I have over and over again… if I’m not comparing myself to the things I see online, I compare myself to the artists who have displays at the local coffee houses, to the lovely families I’ve met who are living the homesteading dream, and to the people I pass on the street who wear super-rad fair trade organic hand-dyed clothes and accessories And I lust after the vintage items in the window after window of antique stores on Soquel Drive, and the fancy American-made furniture at the outlets on 41st, and the smells wafting from the roasters and breweries and restaurants by the wharf.

The Internet is not to blame for my dissatisfaction or for the frantic, anxious pace I try to keep in order to make my life the way I think it should be. I am.

This is why we need Sabbath: Sabbath is a sacred space to cease and regain that perspective. In Sabbath there is no work. No comparison. No getting ahead and no falling behind. Sabbath is allowing your self and your life to just be. It is stopping long enough to remember that no one is forcing you to stay in the rat race, that your best effort is all that is asked of you, and that you have done enough. Sabbath frees you to appreciate instead of to covet. Sabbath is a time to bask in the provision of God, and to take back your worth from the hands of men.

This is why we need Sabbath: our work, our responsibilities, even our loved ones are constantly pushing and pulling us in a million directions. We are fractured. We learn how to function at a pace that we can barely maintain, but we are not whole people. As a nation we are sleep deprived and plagued by chronic pain and mental illness and we mask most of these ailments with pills, believing the lie that we can still do it all. We need Sabbath. We need to force ourselves to say enough is enough, I am DONE. It’s usually the case that this point comes in the form of a breakdown, after we’ve run ourselves ragged (it is for me, anyway. My productivity is cyclical, and characterized by intense, obsessive bouts of high output and the inevitable and rapid burnout. I have always struggled with following through on new projects because of this). Sabbath is the preventative measure we require, the rest we need, to continue to face our daily lives, and it must be defended tooth and nail.

At this point I have a million questions and very few answers… I have no idea what it looks like to “cease.” I have no clue what to do with myself! Is it even possible to spend an entire day doing nothing? What “counts” as work? What if I only do the part of my work that I enjoy? Or do I just have to sit around meditating all day? The concept is so foreign to me that it seems like just an idealistic dream, impossible to achieve. But I have to believe that it is possible to practice Sabbath, and that a nation of workaholics desperately needs it.

I have a few ideas that I’ll share in my next post. Until that time, I wonder what your thoughts are? Have you set up boundaries for your work and commitments that help keep you sane? Do you practice Sabbath in some form? I would love to hear your answers and thoughts. Let’s grow!

♥Ciara Kay


  1. Hey Scoutaroo!

    I'm up late, fixing my computer so I can use the interent, however ages ago I read a book by Lauren Winner called Mudhouse Sabbath...I think it was really good, I probably should re-read it and see if it was any good. I think I really thought it was good, I think I liked her perspective about spiritual matters of faith and practice. I have a terrible memory!

    1. Hey, thanks for the link!! Now it's in my to-read list. ;)

  2. I can totally relate! I think you hit the nail on the head, too, when you identified the core problem not being the internet per se but lack of discipline. That is the deepest problem- which probably boils even further down to basic selfishness or wanting to please ourselves. Or another way of putting it whatever feels good to me at the time. I think you can chalk every single sin issue we have down to that! I too struggle with being too undisciplined with the internet and my biggest trouble is detemining when it goes from 'work' to 'entertainment' That line gets blurred very easily in my line of work. I try to get physical, paper and ink books to read for leisure instead of surfing the net- thats my latest attempt to curb the beast! Problem is I read so dang fast...:)