Thought for the Day - Rhidian Brook
On Bank Holiday Monday, I went for an early morning walk. There was one other person in the park – a man walking his dog. ‘Happy Easter’ I said as I passed him. ‘What’s to be happy about?’ he fired back with some feeling. If I’d had my wits about me I might have said: ‘Well, you know: Jesus conquering death, rising again: that sort of thing,’ but that wasn’t it; he was upset about the money that this ‘flipping bank holiday’ was costing him.
Before I could quote the proverb: ‘Better one handful with tranquillity than two hands with toil and chasing after the wind,’ he was gone. And so was I: back to my office to get on with my day’s work. For, like him, I’d had enough of holidays. I’d spend the last week in Cornwall sort of working; sort of resting and it hadn’t been productive. I needed to make up for lost time.
The low value that we both put on our rest time was amplified at the macro level this week when an economic think tank - citing the connection between Korea’s improved GDP and increased working hours - suggested we would be better off if we worked longer and had fewer holidays. Perhaps if the purpose of mankind’s existence lay in boosting Gross Domestic Product this would seem like a sound idea. We could probably cut weekends while we’re at it. The trouble is that GDP, as Bobby Kennedy pointed out, measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.
If scripture is to be believed God sets a far higher value on rest than mankind does. Presumably well aware of our propensity to over-do things, He made it a commandment, suggesting we take at least one day off a week - even during the busiest times – and promising to make it worth our while. This was not so much a protestant work ethic – more a divine rest ethic. An economy where GDP might have stood for God Demands Playtime or Get Dancing People.
This bank holiday – indeed every holiday - is haunted by the ghost of its original purpose: a holy day in which people enjoy the source of that holiness. Rest is not simply respite from work, or a period that enables us to go back to work even harder, it is an end in itself; it’s not an escape from reality but an actual picture of it in which play, laughter, creativity, being together, is the work. Rest might even hint at what the purpose of our existence might be.
Somewhere in my head there’s still this formulae that says work = money; rest = a missed opportunity. But as my unproductive working holiday proved, not resting is often a false economy. After all, there’s little point in lying down in green pastures or beside still waters if I’m too busy to let God restore my soul.