A Day of Rest / by Simmon Li

The experience of Shabbat in Jerusalem was something fascinating for me. Often, in our own culture, we feel that to rest is to be lazy. We lack a day of rest in which to take stock of ourselves and reflect upon the week just past. The experience here in Jerusalem was interesting in that, for the first time in a long while, I was able to reflect on the week I had just had. Being able to recount was somehow comforting. Even if I wasn't completely bored out of my mind ay some point, it was an interesting experience to actually have the time to reflect. This luxury (I will call it) is not afforded to me back in Toronto. During the week, I'm on for school. During the weekend, I'm on for work. In between is time to sleep, eat, and maybe just to veg out. It's not a contemplative reprieve from the rhythm of life, but rather a withdrawal from life. That is to say, I think the culture we emerse ourselves in is very good at encouraging the passive kind of rest, an active disengagement with ones' self and more importantly with one's surroundings and circumstance. After finishing Saul's book, I see more and more the things he meant, not that I hadn't seen them before, but it strikes me more crisply now. Passivity is what the system strives to instill. And by and large, the system has succeeded in doing what it seeks to do. One only has to see the turnouts to elections in so called "Western democracies" to see the hold that this passivity has on a society. Instead of active engagement and interrogation, we build into passivity a mythology. Escapism is the new normal. How freightening is that?

Anyway, this built in reflexivity of a strange culture was invigorating, even if it was a little disjointing to experience as an outsider. Come the next week, I think I may look forward to the quarter rest that Shabbat affords a soul.

The day of rest was nice in a way though, I got to pick up a book titled The Gardens of Light. It's a fictionalized account of Mani's life, the founder of the school of thought Manicheaism. Fascinating so far. The writing is fantastic, even if it is a translated work. It's also interesting that it is a break from what I normally engage with when I read. Instead of some non-fiction (I do have Humanitarian Negoitations Revealed with me), I thought this would be a nice read. It turned out to be a very nice read. The character Chloe is very well written. At least, she's very well teased. In love with Mani, she was unable to marry him, and instead settled for Malchos, Mani's friend during his time in the isolated cult of the White-clad Brotheren. Malchos gets expelled with plans to marry Chloe, but she reveals to Mani that she has eyes for him. Being in the cult (one would add, against his will), he was unable to be with her. Later on in the book, Mani and Malchos reunite and, of course, Chloe is there. Anyway, it's just such a tragic tale. Not to mention which, Mani later on finds a female companion which just adds to Chloe's burden. Anyway. Fiction. It's pretty awesome. I should read more of it. Take a rest from the seriousness of non-fiction. Like Shabbat for my reading list. :)