Friday, April 16, 2004

Savoring the Sabbath

A timely cure for our harried and hurried times is a Scripture that is always in season: “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” For too many, remembering the Sabbath has been a drudgery more than a delight, yet it was designed to be a blessing not a curse.

Indeed, it is a timeless solution for modern maladies like sleep deprivation and other stress disorders. For as Gordon Dahl noted, “Most middle class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship.”

Judith Shulevitz, writing in The New York Times, observed that “the Sabbath, the one day in seven dedicated to rest by divine command, has become the holiday Americans are most likely never to take.”

In her articulate call to savor the Sabbath, Shulevitz suggested that, “the Sabbath is to the week what the line break is to poetic language. It is the silence that forces you to return to what came before to find its meaning. We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember.”

I am reminded often of the mantra from my favorite jazz station: “relax, refresh, renew.” Such words of wisdom may fall on deaf ears much of the time, but to me it is not only music to my ears but also a salve for my soul.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Countering the Critics

With more than 100 million books in print in the United States the last dozen years, best-selling author John Grisham personifies publishing prowess. Yet the critics still hound him doggedly, as if commercial success somehow disqualifies someone from being considered legitimately good at their craft.

To his credit, Grisham generally tries not to pay the critics much attention. “I’ve sold too many books to ever be taken seriously by critics,” he told the Associated Press. “What I think about is making the best book I’ve ever written. That’s my goal every time.”

I think that is an attitude worth emulating and it reminds me of a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts…the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” While I’m on the subject of Grisham, I must admit that I like his sense of priorities also. Included below is an insightful excerpt from his interview with the Associated Press.

“His workday usually begins at 6 a.m., when he walks out to a small cottage behind his home and writes about 10 pages by noon. The cottage has no telephone, no fax machine and nothing to distract him but two slips of paper hanging on his wall—his children’s sports schedules. ‘I guess you can see what’s important,’ said Grisham. ‘We never miss a game.’”

As Grisham’s comment indicates, family is forever while fame is fleeting, so we need to treat them accordingly. This reminds me of a thought-provoking Scripture: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” [What is dearest to him, in other words.] It’s food for thought.