Sabbath Principles, the Key to an Old Growth Society

Once again I am participating in the Spirit of the Poor synchroblog now permanently hosted by Esther Emery.  Please visit and read the other posts and join in the discussion.

I think there are two basic principles of Sabbath living. These principles are best seen in the story of God providing manna to the Hebrew people in the desert. These principles are:

• God has provided for us: there is even enough such that six days of work will yield enough sustenance for seven days of living.
• This is only true if no one hoards.

These Sabbath principals are both about individual behavior and communal living. We humans need time to rest, to reflect, to gain perspective; but our society, our world, also needs to rest. We need to rotate our crops and let our fields lie fallow. And we need rest to maintain a stable, cyclical, sustainable world.

About five years ago I tried my hand at writing songs. Here is the text of one of those songs:

A Grown-up Economy

We all began as a single cell,
That divided, grew and grew
From cell to fetus, from fetus to child
We grew, and grew,

Then adolescent, then adult
The miracle of growth at play
From one to thirty trillion cells
But then we stayed that way

Chorus:
All life honors limits to growth at adulthood
All systems honor limits to growth at maturity

What would a grown up economy look like
Intricate, stable, rich, diverse
What would an old growth society look like
Having a niche in the universe

What would a grown up economy look like?
Using only what others leave
What would an old growth society look like?
Leaving only what others use

Chorus:
All life honors limits to growth at adulthood
All systems honor limits to growth at maturity

Continuous progress no longer the answer
It’s the problem
Continuous growth no longer the answer
It’s the problem

Like reindeer on an island
Or algae in a pond
Or cancer in the body
We need another paradigm

Chorus:
All life honors limits to growth at adulthood
All systems honor limits to growth at maturity

Continuous growth, no longer the answer
Continuous growth is what we call cancer,

We all began as a single cell,
that divided, grew and grew
From one to thirty trillion cells.
But then came something new.

Chorus:
All life honors limits to growth at adulthood
All systems honor limits to growth at maturity

What would a grownup economy look like?

Our current paradigm is that of continuous growth – getting ahead personally, and growing the economy collectively. Anything that grows continuously: that grows exponentially (by a percentage, even if it is only 1%) will bifurcate – split apart – collapse. It is a mathematic certainty. Continuous growth is suicidal – like cancer.

We need another paradigm.
The place to start is in our imaginations. The Biblical images of Sabbath can help.

Day, on: night, off. Day, on: night, off.
Six on, one off: six on, one off.
It is cyclical. Every sixth day, harvest for two days and rest the seventh day. If you harvest for two days and don’t rest, your harvest will rot.

And let others rest. No need to get ahead, personally or collectively. Empires always need a slave class which usually comes from those of other races or women. We don’t need to be part of an empire. Empires always collapse anyway. We need a paradigm of stability and equality.

Individually we need to be willing to live with less – less stuff, less “savings”, less “security”, less privilege. Even working toward these goals; six on, one off: six on, one off. Even trying to imagine a new paradigm; on/off: on/off. It is in the “off” night dreaming that paradigm shifts usually happen.

Sabbath principles do not say “don’t work so hard, give yourself a break, take it easy. “

There is work to be done, and it is hard work, make no mistake about it. Very hard work. But not continuous – and not alone.

 

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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2 Responses to Sabbath Principles, the Key to an Old Growth Society

  1. kksorrell says:

    Newell, I agree that it feels like nothing is ever ENOUGH. We always need to grow, expand, go further up the career chain, make more money, buy more things, etc. At some point, we have to say: “This is enough” and see how blessed we are with ENOUGH.

    Like

    • “At some point” is the key phase. I think we need the help and encouragement of others to call today that point. I also believe that it can be done in stages – I have enough of this one thing, and see how it feels. My experience is that it usually feels good and leads to bigger areas where we say “this is enough.” Then the big move to simplify becomes a joyous occasion.

      Like

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