Sabbath is an ancient religious idea around taking a day a week to dedicate to prayer and rest.
It’s also a word that has been cropping up in hipster circles too. Especially in the context of digital technology. The ‘Digital Sabbath’ is an idea promoted by many who can see the risks of being connected to the online world too much.
And so the call is to remove technology for a day a week. Have a sabbath, a day of rest, away from this source of energy depletion.
What does it mean to rest? To lay back and find support from the environment around you. In the sense of being still (in place, on a bed, in a chair, in a grave). Stepping away from the thing that causes unrest (work, awakeness, life itself, or technology etc).
A digital sabbath is not a bad idea. And extending this concept to other sources of fatigue is also a wonderful thing to utilise in our lives.
However, there is also something to be aware when designing life in such a way.
Prohibition, Obligation, or Permission
Researching the digital sabbath I was inspired to think of my own relationship with the word. It was something I understood deeply growing up as the child of a vicar. And my reaction to the ‘digital sabbath’ idea was pretty messy and confusing.
Sabbath = Prohibition
For me, the idea of sabbath contains a lot of negative baggage. It’s tied up with the idea of prohibition and obligation. Not doing stuff. Having dogmatic rules about the right and wrong things to do on a Sunday.
When obligation and prohibition dictate our relationship with rest, transformation, and community, it can become problematic. And in the context of digital sabbath, the concept of ‘permission’ feels like a healthier and more helpful way to approach it. Yet this takes some sorting through.
Because in its basic state a digital sabbath is about the prohibition of technology (phones, computers, tablets, TV etc). Which is not a great foundation for positive change. And it’s certainly not a good way to make contagious transformation (inspiring others to follow suit).
We used to go to the south of France on holiday. We stayed in many campsites with a siesta culture. Everything would shut down for a few hours in the afternoon. For me, as a kid, it felt like a lifetime.
Everything was prohibited. No noise, no playing, no swimming. You had to sleep, read, or just sit and be quiet. At least, that was my understanding.
This is a complete dream now. I would love to have to nap every day.
But as a child the prohibition and obligation made it tough. It felt oppressive. Because places were closed I was desperate to get in. Because reading wasn’t a choice, I couldn’t do it. When you can’t make noise, play, or run around, they are the three things you desperately want to do. Even though if they were permitted, you wouldn’t do them anyway.
This is what happens to us when we prohibit ourselves from having access to stuff. A digital sabbath makes technology more irresistible. Banning junk food makes junk food even more desirable. And being told you can’t watch TV makes you desperate to turn it on and watch, literally anything.
In this episode I explore more around this ideas of sabbath and prohibition.
Listen to The Gentle Rebel (Extended Play) Private Podcast:
Sabbath (and Creating Vision)
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