I have been working to be unproductive at least one day a week. It’s a difficult chore, but one I think we are called to. We are called to be still so that we can know God—to simply be in God’s presence. It is in this way that we can open ourselves up to God; to acknowledge our state of absolute dependence and trust in God’s absolute goodness. But in our attempts to manage ourselves, manage others, and manage the world it is difficult work to simply be for no end but to be what and who we are.
The Slovenian psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Zizek has pointed out how “Western Buddhism” compliments global capitalism by offering serenity in the midst of chaos. Rather than questioning the fundamental reasons that we are stressed by an exploitative system New Age religions offer us a way to cope. Meditation and prayer become a part of our productivity routine—a way for us to recharge for more of the produce-to-consume cycle. It is easy to fall into this trap in Christianity as well; to make the practice of our faith “useful”—one more part of our constant push to use God to help ourselves.
Escaping the trap of productivity and usefulness is a difficult venture, but one well worth working toward. It requires training and that is why I try to make the Sabbath a day of profligate idleness. On this day I try to simply be and rest in the abundance and delight of God’s creation, reveling in my dependence on God’s goodness. I work to escape thinking that my rest is a recharge, that my afternoon strolls are exercise, that my reading is educational. I try to focus instead on enjoying God’s gifts and nothing else. I am often unsuccessful in this venture, but it is my hope that by simply being on one day a week I will develop a stance in the world that will carry over to my other activities so that people and prayer and the careful tending of a garden will no longer be things that I have to get done, but opportunities to receive and participate in God’s abundant and very good gifts.