Today, Saturday, I resolved to avoid anything beyond my own un-amplified perception: Everything that is media in its commercial sameness and insensate iterations of horrendous worldly violence, pathos, warfare, or famine in the name of gods, nations, and dogmas. Everything beyond the limits of my own sight and hearing; everything disconnected from home and family. Today I quit political and commercial porn– cold turkey– and I avoided shopping, virtual and physical; and cut off all that is said to be entertainment: no Netflix, Amazon. I determined, just for this day, to simply Be; to inaugurate a personal, secular Sabbath.
If one spends time with Herodotus, or more orderly and recent historians like Edward Gibbon, or Will and Ariel Durant, or even an inconstant Wiki, it is clear that different cultures in different times and places often have historic/mythic commonalities (myth to some but history by the ancients). One sees how virgin births and floods and such events invade and adapt to new cultures.
As I think about life here at the vortex of the early 21st Century, it seems terribly noisy; we ‘know’ so much about places and events far from our own reality; far too much, considering that knowledge is unlimited but far from accurate, far from meeting our need for truth, facts… Whatever those are! Does knowing imperfectly, or just seeing some tragic image, imply an obligation? Somehow I suspect it does. That’s the problem ‘Knowing’. I have always made an effort act on that knowledge, however imperfect it may be; and almost always, in those actions, I myself am changed, and often healed.
Even so, the noise of knowledge, and the burden of awareness can be oppressive; maybe that’s why I like this from Gilgamesh of Sumeria; the god Enlil sent a flood that destroyed mankind:
‘… on the seventh day the waters became calm, the sun came out, the earth was in stillness, peace and quiet reigned over the earth, for man had been swept from off the face of the earth and drowned in the flood, because his “noise” had disturbed the god’s rest ! ‘ (Gilgamesh and Atrahasis)….Hebrews… transformed either the Akkadian Sebittu or the Sumerian Sa-bat (Sha-bat) into Hebrew Shabbath (English Sabbath)’
(p. 107, W.G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)
It made me consider a personal Sabbath, cutting down the noise of the wider world. Despite variations in details, a regularly (often weekly) recurring day of rest is found in Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity , Theravada Buddhism, and even Cherokee. Coincidence? Could there be something significant in that coincidence? It is often claimed that people far from our ‘connected’ world, perhaps people we feel are disadvantaged, seem unreasonably happy and content. Would a regular day of withdrawal or rest could ‘knit up the raveled sleeve ‘ of 21st Century mind? Could I manage to steal some quiet, on a weekly Sabbath? That is not like me, a child of the world, an itinerant physician since 1955, a sort of multi-cultural polyglot culturally gluttonous citizen of the Americas, who just ordered a sixth expanded passport.
If death is not quite yet at the bedside, it’s premature and presumptuous to ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’ like Dylan Thomas,
” Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”.
or to rage at the coming of every dawn either. I choose, for now, not to risk being drowned by an angry god, like Enlil by observing a Sabbath without so much noxious noise. At our age, Enlil’s and mine, we both should benefit far more from one quiet day a week than from all those chemical and societal drugs and noxious nostrums typical of 2016.