A Toast to Sabbath

Last week my wife bought a new toaster. It is a beautiful kitchen appliance with its artful balance of white and brushed metal, and a shape that would surely make it aerodynamic if it were to sprout wheels, which may yet happen. Why do I say that?

Well, when we first plugged in the toaster and fed it a piece of my wife’s lovely homemade bread, we were surprised to see a bright blue light emit from it when the knob was pushed down. We looked at each other, baffled at the utility of the blue glow that our toaster cast in our kitchen. Of course, it isn’t only our toaster that leaves us scratching our heads. I still recall our very first microwave oven. When our warmed milk was ready, a lovely “Ding!” called us to late night libation. I lost count of the number of “beebs” our latest microwave offers us. I fear buying another, wondering what will be done to outdo this senseless sting of sounds. All of which brings me to my observation: just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should do it.

Of course that insight isn’t altogether new. My mother told me it regularly as a child. Although this lesson might be lost on some designers, I think it is more relevant than ever because it seems we can do ever more things. After all doing one thing means not doing another; adding this beep means losing that silence; seeing this light means losing that soft shadow,

The question concerning what a technician should do – given what they can do – is not unrelated to the question of what a scientist should do in light of what they can do; nor is it unrelated to the question of what a politician, a bureaucrat, or a clergy person can do and what they should do. Choosing not to do something that I can do is a fascinating even if an unusual experience. We are encouraged to do whatever we can guided by the mantra of “no pain, no gain.” Yet experience teaches us that sometimes gain itself is a pain we cannot bear. There are moments in life when the most important job we have to do is to be still and wait.

Being still is an important spiritual discipline. Of course, it is not all there is to life. But it really is the condition for the possibility of living life in its richest iterations. Taking time to be is simply making time itself meaningful. To savour a second, a minute, an hour is to imbibe eternity, and so to live in Sabbath’s serenity.

14 thoughts on “A Toast to Sabbath

  1. Marie Taylor says:

    This remind me also of painting. Just because you can use ‘all the colors’ or fill all the page, doesn’t mean you should. That negative space or emptiness is sometimes the most important part.

  2. vidajay says:

    A lovely post. Thank-you.

  3. I’m working a bit right now on the idea of the melancholia generosa, and it sounds like it has many affinities to what you’re writing. Thank-you for your inspiration!

  4. shoreacres says:

    In the last decade or so of my mother’s life, it was more than clear to us that what “could” be done and what “should” be done were often two different things. Whether the question was medication or a procedure, there were times when we’d come home from the doc, I’d hit the internet, and then we’d decide what WE thought was best. Thinking back, I remember rejecting Alzheimer’s medication and hand surgery on that basis.

    And, in the end, when the time came to continue on with a whole variety of “life” sustaining procedures, it was clear that what could be done wasn’t the right thing to do.

    Of course, my favorite corollary to this is the little bit of wisdom about necessity and invention. We used to say that necessity was the mother of invention. Now, invention is the mother of necessity. First someone invents something (a blue light toaster? iGadgets?) and then they set about convincing us we need it!

    • agjorgenson says:

      Oh, I love that: Necessity is the mother of invention. Did you “invent” that or, find it somewhere? Either way I’d like to know if you have its provenance at hand. That is a great quotation. Thanks for it. It might even find its way into a sermon someday.

      • shoreacres says:

        “Necessity is the mother of invention” has been around for a long, long time. As far as I know, I “invented” its corollary about “invention being the mother of necessity”. Of course, reversals like that can be so obvious that I’m sure many others have done so. I think you can go right ahead and use it and claim it as your own – it’s one of those statements that ought to be in the public domain if it isn’t!

  5. raspberryman says:

    Reblogged this on raspberryman and commented:
    An excellent reflection in light of the Gospel text for this coming Sunday — Luke 17:5-10. “Teach us to do what we ought to do” (v10) is a prayer whose living-out can mean NOT doing what I am able to do. Indeed, a ‘Toast to Sabbath’!

  6. agjorgenson says:

    Thanks for the reblog Martin. Blesssings on your proclamation next weekend!

  7. jannatwrites says:

    I like the thoughts that were generated by something as simple as toaster technology! Especially the last paragraph. (Our toaster is 16 years old, so there are no bells and lights.)

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