Why you're trying so hard to work today.
Two weeks ago, I sent you a Sunday Letter consisting of 10 words, and 6 of them were these:
It is okay to rest.
And my inbox was like this:
Isn't it remarkable, how compelling is the idea
that something as fundamental as REST is okay?
In my letters to you this week,
I want to zoom way out
to think about where our culture's work obsession comes from.
pause the omnipresent demand
that we Get To Work
and wonder where that demand came from.
Let's begin with a look at a powerful underpinning
of US culture:
the Puritan Work Ethic.
Those pilgrims brought us more than sexual repression and white supremacy!
They brought their version of Calvinist doctrines, too.
Like the one that declared that one's successful work in the world
is evidence of one's worthiness of God and salvation.
The Puritan ancestors were super into this idea:
Your Work Shows You're Worthy.
You can see this logic everywhere in our culture.
For instance, in the immigration debate,
see how many times people point to "hard-working immigrants"
Immigrants who "do the work" we need them to do
immigrants who "contribute to our economy"
have valid reason to belong here.
Notice, too, the flip side of this coin:
there's a Threat of Eternal Damnation for those who are lazy.
So, not only is your Productivity proof of your Worthiness,
your breaks from Productivity are evidence of your Wickedness.
"Idle hands are the Devil's workshop" and whatnot.
perhaps in a time without electricity
without laptops and email and smartphones,
the exaltation of Work was kept in check by the simple facts of darkness and cold.
Meaning: Puritans shut down at sundown.
But now that we are all lit up,
now that we are able, technologically, to be working 24/7,
now that the 40 hour work week has expanded into a 60+ hour work week,
we have this deep, dark sense
that we SHOULD be working all the time.
We SHOULD BE more and more and more productive.
We haven't- ever - Done Enough.
beneath that, of course,
is an ocean of tiredness
begging us to rest.
There's a primal understanding
that we are not honoring our bodies
or our relationships
or our planet
or the wildness and preciousness of our lives
with this work-obsessed existence.
I know it's the beginning of the work week,
but it's also the beginning of a week of your whole life.
What's calling you?
An earlier bedtime?
A quiet evening with your beloveds? A real dinner?
Time in the gym, or out in nature, or in yoga class?
A novel? Your knitting? A new album you've been meaning to listen to?
What charges your batteries?
What fills your cup?
Figure out how to make time for that this week,
not because you've earned it,
but because you are, just for being a human,