This post was written by Ashley Brazil, co-President of DePaul Interfaith. Ashley is graduating this June with a degree in Sociology.
My computer has a virus on it, which means I don’t currently have it. This post was originally written by hand. Not having my computer has made me realize how much time I actually spend sitting behind the computer and how dependent I’ve become on it , for information, communication, entertainment, even telling the time. This made me think of “tech Sabbaths”.
A while ago, I stumbled on an article about tech Sabbaths, or secular Sabbaths. It’s a new practice (or old, actually, if you’re familiar with Judaism) where people intentionally take a break from technology. No iPods, TVs, cell phones, computers, CD players, video games or anything else that rings, dings, buzzes, beeps, vibrates, talks, or plays video or music by way of electricity or batteries.
I read a book recently for one of my classes called Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford. The book speaks to the value of manual labor and about the devaluation of manual labor and the simple values it inspires in us being lost in recent years as technology becomes more and more a part of our lives. Also, as a sociology student, it made me think of the concept of anomie, a kind of directionless, dissatisfied, dissociative psychic malaise that occurs in modern societies as a result of alienation and sensory overload brought on by technology. Technology actually diminishes us by making us appendages to it. It mediates and automates the control we would otherwise have over our lives and leads us to be alienated from ourselves and others, more passive, and less satisfied and happy. We become consumers of our experiences rather than creators of them and our lives become less rich.
And so the Jewish holiday of Sabbath is a chance to be simple, relax, reflect, and come back to ourselves. It gives us a chance to reconnect with ourselves and enjoy the people around us, to simply live life instead of constantly being consumed with the hustle and bustle that can be so distracting. It’s a chance to get back in balance and renew out knowledge of what is really important in life. From a Buddhist perspective the significance of Sabbath is that of a centering practice. Sabbath is asking the Big Questions, “Who am I?” “What is this life?” a kind of meditation that leads us to the primary nature of the self and of existence. It takes us back to primary point; this to me is what is meant by keeping the Sabbath in remembrance of G-d.
Sitting here writing this post with pen and paper, I can attest to the value of simplicity. I have sat here quietly and calmly absorbed in the movement of the pen over the paper, noticing the sound of the pen moving, delighting in the distinctive look of my own handwriting. I haven’t had to stop and wait for the computer to respond and getting frustrated and irritated in the process. And writing this post has not been any less enjoyable or any more difficult than it would have been if I had my computer. Isn’t it amazing that even more than two thousand years ago people understood the value of simplicity and knew that valuing anything over life itself would only lead to unhappiness? How wise and amazing human beings are! I am glad that this value is being kept alive by people of faith all around the world: Jews, the Amish, Muslims, and Buddhists all believe it’s important to just stop and take some time to reflect.