I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is an old Warren Zevon song that speaks to reckless youth, the party hearty lifestyle of a rock star, and the devil may care attitude of a generation living for the moment. The KISS song I Wanna Rock ‘n Roll All Night (And Party Everyday) is another anthem typical of the Me Generation. Live fast, die young, and leave behind a beautiful corpse was the motto. But even Zevon had to grow up, catch his breath, and stop to smell the roses (after imbibing, snorting, and consuming substances that were most illicit and definitely not roses). His song Detox Mansion details his cessation from all of that…he was “raking leaves with Liza (Minelli) and washing clothes with Liz (Taylor)”. An updated version might have to include Lindsey (Lohan) and Charlie (Sheen).
Of course there are religious communities that observe this cessation as well (withdrawal from the hectic, frenzied lifestyles, the 24/7 commercialization of almost everything, the smart phones, social media, and the constant bombardment of sight and sound. They call this cessation the Sabbath. It’s a concept that’s only been around for several thousand years. And it’s worked out pretty damn good. Religious Jews observe their Sabbath (Shabat) from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. And its not that other religious faiths don’t observe the Sabbath, its just that the Jews take it more seriously than the rest of us. The exception being the Amish Christian sect. Poet/writer/ farmer/ environmentalist Wendell Berry champions the Amish as a community that balances work/play and has the ability to shut out outside distractions. In his beautiful poem Sabbath, Berry writes:
Ask the world to reveal its quietude-
Not the silence of machines when they are still,
But the true quiet by which birdsongs,
Trees, bellows, snails, clouds, storms become
What they are, and are nothing else
One of Berry’s poems, Sabbath III, became a central theme for the Terrence Mallick and Robert Redford produced film The Unforseen.
The Amish are also unique in that they don’t conduct business on the Sabbath. No money changes hands. I remember as a child, Texas had on its books what were called blue laws. You were not permitted to buy certain items on Sunday. You could buy eggs, but not a pan to fry them in. It was quite arbitrary and silly really but contrast that time with today where even holidays like Thanksgiving are not free from commercialization. What store is not open on Thanksgiving anymore? Black Friday has turned into Black Thursday.
It’s not my intent to convert our dear readers to Judaism or the Amish sect. I’m simply using the religious nature and traditions of the Sabbath to illustrate a point about the importance of temporarily withdrawing from the madness around us. Some may choose to completely go off grid, but that is not a choice or even a desire for most. But for the artists and creative souls among us, the stepping back, the quietude that Berry addresses so eloquently is an essential element of our art. Using those religious communities as a yardstick against our own lives gives us the opportunity to contemplate the spiritual, rejuvenate, stay healthy, and be creative and wise. I would like to delve into this some more but I’m watching six news shows all at once on my smart T.V., working on my taxes, looking for that book I’ve been meaning to read, taking a phone call, chomping on some fast food, getting my kids ready for bed…it’s all quite exhausting…I’ll sleep when I’m dead.