Thoughts about Sunday and our threatened leisure time.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Today is Sunday, May  29, 2011.  I shall celebrate it like millions of people worldwide by going to work, leaving me at the end of the day with only a tiny sliver of the leisure time my grandparents had every Sunday for their long lives. This continuing labor is not necessarily entirely beneficial… although  many good things do in fact come from the Sunday tasks performed by its workers worldwide.

Today, therefore, I examine Sunday, its uses and, some suggested  better uses. The objective, which I set for myself as clearly as for you, is to examine a problem that grows larger for more people every year: cannibalizing Sunday for the time that should be used for your necessary refreshment and revitalization; sadly each year less of it is. In our frenetic times, we no longer, like Ponce de Leon (1474-1521), search for eternal youth. But we, who are prone to think Don Ponce a bit of a fool, are engaged in our version of his odyssey. We know we need more time, and we are engaged in the never-ending pursuit of ways to get it.

We are victims of work creep and leisure drain, two insidious, inter-related conditions that threaten to turn us into drones who use improving their economic condition as their reason for changing Sunday from free time to work time. “We have to,” they insist.

When I hear this, I think of how monkeys are captured, by a very clever and inexpensive method. The hunter uses no guns or bullets; he wants his monkeys in good condition.  Instead, he uses a narrow-lipped jar packed with cookies and other primate delights. This jar is placed in an area frequented by the curious creatures; when they see piles of the sweet things they love best they thrust a paw down the jar… and are trapped.

Now here’s the ironic thing: to regain their freedom, all the monkeys must do is open their paw and let the delicious but dangerous goodie fall to the bottom of the jar. Their clenched paw and the goodie inside have made them prisoners; merely opening their paw will free them. But the monkeys will not unclench their paws, for that would cost them the dainties. And so they are well and truly captured by their own avarice and their desire for more.

And so we, too, are well and truly trapped and captured by the work we must do every day, work we call completely urgent and necessary so as to preserve our life style. But at what cost? We are as trapped and baffled as the monkeys, and like them we might have chosen a less perilous way; one above all else preserving our own freedom.

How the concept of Sunday has evolved over the last 200 years.

Since the sweeping success of both the British and American evangelical movements at the end of the 18th century, three distinctly different Sundays have existed.

First was the evangelical Sunday, strictly reserved for God’s Sabbath with absolutely no work of any kind permitted. England’s Lord’s Day Observance Society (founded 1831) epitomized the thinking that lead to strict Sabbatarianism. God had rested on the seventh day; you would therefore rest, and humbly so, whether you wanted to or not.

As the widely believed verities of the evangelicals began to wane at the end of the nineteenth century (later in America) Sunday changed, too. Progressive humanists argued that strict Sabbartarianism discriminated against the poor and laboring classes who had just Sunday and Sunday only to enjoy all the educational and other amenities. Criticism now centered on the people who advocated a strict and unyielding Sabbath, spent extolling God’s virtues, to the neglect of everything else.This new view saw Sunday as desirable and deserved leisure time, not merely the occasion for weary strictness and total biblical focus.

This trend produced what came to be known as the “Continental Sunday”, where leisure, all kinds of leisure, was wanted and indulged, the general sentiment being that the common folks worked hard for this day and deserved its delights and amenities. And delights and amenities they got as the golden days of the Continental Sunday with its laissez fair ways and relaxed conditions freed the nation from stringent rules and restrictions, mostly emanating from churches of an evangelical persuasion.

So matters might have stayed if matters of this kind are ever unchanging. But the leisured, recreational, family-centered delights of Continental Sundays were changed and challenged by such cultural factors as the desire to make more money to acquire the things money can buy. In periods of economic difficulty this factor changed again; in such periods people had to take Sunday and turn it into additional income, never mind the leisure that was thereby sacrificed  — and was so desirable and needed.

Now the nibbling process is at work on the grand, happy, burden-lifting Continental Sunday, an institution so needed by the hard-working folk on Planet Earth you might be excused for thinking this new, third phase had to be an improvement on what we already had.

But is it?

It is a sign of the times that otherwise sensible earthlings swap leisure and necessary recreation for money, money, and more money… and mountains of things we (for I include myself) do not need… but must acquire notwithstanding.

This is a deal made with the devil…. and you are one of the prime signatories… as I am.

It is time, here and now, to launch our bid for freedom…  our July 4, Cinco de Mayo, Bastille Day… for we are as oppressed, burdened and weary of abuse as they for all that we have done this to ourselves.

We, like our revolutionary brethren of yore, must strike now, not a moment later, whilst we still have the good sense and strong arm to bring back, to all who desire and need it, our beloved Continental Sunday and the necessary leisure and relief we must have to live a life of balance and equilibrium, not killing stress in all its destructiveness.

All this is no small thing, nothing to be considered casually, without your full attention and concern. We humans are so finely crafted that we need leisure to reach our full potential and maintain our health and splendid spirits which are now and will always be the foundation of our success.

So, now, take the pledge.

Pledge! To fight work creep and leisure drain. Pledge!

Pledge! To think whether the work and its emoluments are more important than the revitalizing leisure you give up. Pledge!

Pledge! To resolve to use leisure as a means of strengthening your life, increasing its span and its quality. Pledge!

Pledge! To keep sacrosanct your special time apart from work, your carefree zone. It is essential for life’s highest quality. Pledge!

Now sign and date this manifesto of common sense and resolute purpose. Your life in all its aspects will improve as soon as you do… the very moment you do!


About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Dr. Lant is also the author  of 18 best-selling business books.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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