Thursday, June 03, 2010

Space and time

I've actually had two other sabbaticals.

The first was in 1990 or 91 or 92.  Having been a college philosophy teacher for a number of years, I took all my money out of CalPers retirement and moved to San Francisco. There were two purposes to this, one of which was to learn how to not work 80 hour weeks.  The days stretched out in front of me like the Pacific Ocean out my window. I was so anxious I wanted to peel the paint off the wall.

Sabbath -- spaciousness -- is a blessing, partly because the pain inside has room to move, and then to heal. That doesn't seem like a blessing when it's happening, so most of us do everything we can to avoid it.  Gerald May writes, "True space is encountered only with the willingness and courage to experience things as they are....When people tell me they have trouble taking time for prayer or meditation, I often ask them what unpleasant things they might be wanting to avoid."

Sabbath is a blessing, also, because one's soul has space to yearn, to stretch, and to rest in the presence of God or peace or hope.

My second sabbatical was a few years back, when my oldest friends invited their friends to spend a week in a villa in Tuscany.  A week may not seem like a sabbatical, and certainly we kept busy (even without traveling, you put twelve people in a house there will be cooking and cleaning to do) but if sabbatical is purposed break in normal activity to rest in the arms of God, this was sabbatical.  Every morning my friend Jeff and I awoke early by nature, with neither alarm nor agreement. One of us made coffee. Then we would sit outside, drinking coffee, and reading. This was not intentional; it just was. Sometimes we talked, mostly we didn't. The Italian hills stretched out before me like those minutes of internal spaciousness.  The quiet companionship, the uncluttered time, the softness of morning, and the joy of reading remains for me the image of the jewel that is Sabbath.

In sabbatical, we wait in space and time for healing and rest, and after the pain begins to heal and the clutter blows away, it finds us waiting, with room to spare.

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