Thursday, May 22, 2014

24/7: The case for a day of rest in a digital age. By Mark Kellner

Caitlin Rother had finally had enough. The 20-year veteran newspaper reporter got a call on election night in 2002 at 11:30 p.m. Her editor demanded she call a source, regardless of the late hour.

So Rother left the security of a full-time job and a paycheck to become a freelance writer working at her own pace and on her own time. It was then, she later recalled, that things got really hectic.

"I thought this would be less stressful. I was wrong. Now, I'm never off deadline," she said via phone from a San Diego-area coffee shop. "I have a book deadline. (I'm working on) two or three projects at a time. … It's actually very difficult for me to take time off and relax because I have a million things I think I should be doing or could be doing. It's just a different treadmill than before. It's like playing poker with my life."

Rother's experience may be extreme, but it points to a trend. According to the Center for American Progress, the typical American middle-income family worked an average of 11 more hours per week in 2006 than in 1979. Such extended working hours can take their toll. And with the increasing ubiquity of devices such as smartphones and laptops, Americans may be connected to their jobs and work lives more than ever before; "tethered" is the word often used to describe the 24/7 circumstances in which we find ourselves.

For Rother, "playing poker" came up short, and her workaholic lifestyle as a freelancer took its toll on her health: "I gave myself what I call 'laptop whiplash,' the result of a marathon interview session with the heroine of my book, 'Twisted Triangle,' during which I typed for 18 hours over a couple of days while sitting on the couch in my living room. It didn't heal properly because I had a deadline to meet and had to keep working," she wrote in an email.

"I spent 18 months in pain and I had to go through all kinds of treatments to deal with that," she said. "I had to change my lifestyle, my attitude, my diet — when I came out of that, I learned it the hard way, you can't put pressure on yourself."

Now, Rother diligently strives to take one day off each week, creating for herself a "Sabbath," a day of rest to recharge and refresh. For her, it's not religiously based, nor is it perfectly observed, but the author, who specializes in true crime books, knows that if she doesn't take a break, it truly can be hazardous to her health.

'You need to rest'

"You need to rest," Rother said. "You can't be efficient and get things done if you don't take time to rest."

Sometimes, overwork makes global headlines, as it did in August 2013 when Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, collapsed and died after working for 72 hours straight. Although a coroner later ruled Erhardt's death was caused by an epileptic seizure, the investment firm — and others — have now revised work rules to give such workers enough time to rest.

The concept of a Sabbath, indeed of a seven-day weekly cycle itself, traces back to the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis, which describes what God did after a week of creating the world. "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-2, King James Version)

While Christianity inherited a day of rest from Judaism, other major world religions do not have a similar Sabbath imperative. Friday is a day of worship in the Islamic world, but that does not require a cessation from worldly activity, but rather attendance at worship. In Hinduism and Buddhism, adherents are said to continually practice their religion, so no specific day of rest or worship is appointed.

Setting apart — which Merriam-Webster says is the definition of "sanctify," from the Latin sanctus, or sacred — a day of rest is a "connective tissue across the ages," argues Dr. Sigve K. Tonstad, a physician and theologian who teaches at Loma Linda University in California. A Seventh-day Adventist, Tonstad, whose medical specialty includes diabetes treatment, believes there's a strong link between rest and health ... ► Read the full article by Mark A. Kellner in Deseret News

Source: Deseret NewsPosted April 15, 2014
Author: Mark A. Kellner a national reporter for the Deseret News, has written about issues of faith and freedom since 1983, including 11 years of editorial work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. From 1991 to 2014, Mark also wrote for The Washington Times, both on personal technology and also matters of faith, with a weekly column called "Higher Ground." He is the author of "God on the Internet," as well as a book in the "For Dummies®" series ... more
Photo credit: Shutterstock│Deseret News
Editor's note: This article is part of "The Ten Today," a Deseret News series that examines the Ten Commandments in modern society. This story explores the fourth commandment: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." 


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