Sound sleep = social justice
Updated: Aug 23
With a few notable exceptions, the way problems are solved is frantically, desperately, reactively, and badly.
In writing about the importance of rest, Wayne Muller speaks from his own experience. When he wrote the sentence above, he'd already spent 25 years working "to build and sustain community . . . in the fields of community development, public health, mental health, and criminal justice."
Muller frames his plea for us to regularly take time to rest and reflect in the context of Sabbath. "While Sabbath can refer to a single day of the week," Muller explains, "Sabbath can also be a far-reaching, revolutionary tool for cultivating those precious qualities that grow only in time."
When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful.
Pause now and consider whether you have seen your personal efforts or those of the organizations you work for limited by what Thomas Merton called "a pervasive form of contemporary violence, [namely] activism and overwork." Have any of your efforts suffered from the combination of passion, urgency, and relentless effort?
Presented with the intricate and delicate issues of poverty, public health, community well-being, and crime, our impulse, born of weariness, is to rush headlong toward doing anything that will make the problem go away. maybe then we can finally go home and get some rest. But without the essential nutrients of rest, wisdom, and delight embedded in the problem-solving process itself, the solution we patch together is likely to be an obstacle to genuine relief.
Muller shares the insights of a doctor, trained from the beginning of medical school to be able to perform "when sleep-deprived, hurried, and overloaded." The doctor recognized that when he was tired or overworked, he ordered lots of tests, hoping to see the right diagnosis in a myriad of manifest symptoms. "But," the doctor realized, "when I was rested--if I had an opportunity to get some sleep, or go for a quiet walk--when I saw the next patient, I could rely on my intuition and experience to give me a pretty accurate reading of what was happening. . . When I could take the time to listen and be present with them and their illness, I was almost always right."
I have two invitations for you. First, take some time to rest yourself so you can bring all your faculties--including your capacity for delight--to your efforts to make the world better (or to let the world be better). Second, help someone else--in your team, organization, or circle of friends--establish some regular time for rest and reflection.
As we take time to reset, Muller promises, we will "hear the miraculous resilience and strength present among those who suffer [and we will be able to] more generously serve all those who need our care."