ecently, ok last week, I was stranded in the brussels airport trying to go to either England or Spain. A friend was throwing a festival in Spain, and I wanted to surprise him. Another musician friend was touring the UK and I wanted to catch one of his gigs. Two desires, neither of which were possible to fulfill.
When I say stuck, I mean stuck–too much snow to fly airplanes or to take the train. Shut down, as when the volcanoes hovered overhead all of Europe last year.
There are a few ways to handle being stranded. You can go for the intimacy of suffering afforded by the situation–suddenly everyone is experiencing the same misery, so it is possible to form quick and sometimes very deep bonds with fellow stranded people. You can try to overcome the blockade, by pressing against the system in place–which sometimes works if there is a general obstacle orientation or fatality syndrome, but in this case, it was simply too much snow to travel; or you can use it as an educational and or spiritual growth opportunity. I think i did all three.
In my own spirituality, i have been thinking loads about sabbath. The concept of all things being produced out of a state of rest. It appears from Genesis that this is what God did at the start. And the rest is history as they say. But as an American, i too, struggle with the rest. As an American, I am more often restless.
Rest is not native to those who started by having to be restless. Early Americans had to be productive in order to claim and stake out a piece of the American dream. I have often wondered why it is called a dream. For dreams seem so subdued in comparison to the level of activity it took to make it work in the new world early on. Dreams, have by nature, a receptive quality–we are asleep when they occur.
If Americans were to walk around in a dream state, things would look remarkably un-American here. So I wondered, what is the correct state of mind to be in when there are impediments to productivity, when the human networks are impossible to traverse, when the collective synapses are impenetrable–that is, when your stuck in an airport.
The Jews have book after book on sabbath, and what it means to rest. But I can’t say it appears they are not productive in life! The crystal from many of these books, is that God rested, and all of creation came out of this rest. Even Adam was put to sleep so God could bring forth Eve. Some type of surgery was performed, but Adam was asleep, and quite surprised and amazed when he was introduced to Eve. So, woman was created out of a man’s rest.
Productivity in itself, then, is not bad. To be industrious is considered the opposite of being lazy. But perhaps laziness is not rest. One thing which became clear to me, as I sipped on belgian ales made by monks who were probably quite restful themselves when these beers were brewing–Sabbath is not doing nothing–but more like doing everything without so much effort.
I mean, it is obvious that monastic beer (I know that some of my baptist friends will disagree with this, but recall Jesus’ first miracle, albeit under the pressure of his Jewish mother) and cheese are some of the highlights of church history, and that both came out of a monasticism which honors rest, prayer and meditation on scripture. Allowing life to continue as you take a deep breath seems to be the bedrock of meaningful and pleasurable productivity. Perhaps true sabbath is more like stopping, allowing oneself to dream, then paying attention to what one has dreamed. Then, when waking life returns, implementing what one received while dreaming.
If, as the song goes, life is but a dream, perhaps being stuck in an international airport could become a meaningful transition in life, wherein, one begins to understand the overarching patterns of culture or one’s own life. Of course, i was not so wise last week in brussels, but I did dream after several belgian ales, and somehow found it relaxing to be dreaming in an airport. Forced rest is better than none at all.