Who’s the Moron?

Dear Will:

From where I sit in my upstairs office, I look out of a large window onto our backyard. I get a fairly clear view of the overgrown trees and the patch of now-bare turf Seth uses for home plate when he plays his imaginary baseball games. And on a day such as this one, which started out chilly but has since turned sunny, I can also see Barnum, The Moron Dog, relaxing in the midday sun.

Although he normally lives as if to embrace his Moron Dog moniker, today he looks up at me as if to say: “Who’s the moron?” He knows—because he hangs around here—that I am not likely to move from this chair for several hours as I pound furiously on my laptop, alternately working, emailing, and writing a letter to you. Barnum, meanwhile, will spend the time until the kids return from school moving from one patch of sun to the other, carefully shifting his nap in order to follow the warmth.

If you have stayed up too late working (as I did last night) and have too much to do (as I do today), it’s easy to think that the dog’s life is a good one. Let’s review Barnum’s daily routine:

  • 6:20 a.m. – Take a walk with Bryn. Relieve yourself with enthusiasm.
  • 6:40 a.m. – Hang out briefly near the kitchen hoping for a handout while the humans eat breakfast and make lunches.
  • 6:50 a.m. – Give up on the snack and go back to bed.
  • 6:52 a.m. – Nap until bedtime.

There may be a little more to it than that—including an occasional growling, come-play-fetch-with-me frenzy—but that is the essence of it. As the saying goes, it’s nice work if you can get it.

In truth, I wouldn’t last a day on Barnum’s schedule. There is just too much to do. As an alternative, however, I have come to revel in the divine mandate to set aside one day a week as the Lord’s Sabbath. In Exodus 20 we read:

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

I admit that when I was younger, I found the practice of “keeping the Sabbath day holy” both annoying and restrictive. However, when I started college I decided that if it qualified as one of the Ten Commandments it might be worth a try. The short version of this story is that I discovered, even as a UCLA freshman, the sweet, restorative benefits of giving myself permission to take it easy on Sundays. Now these many years later, I look forward to Sundays because I have come to rely on the chance to not do, and I find that as a direct consequence I am actually much more effective at the doing during the other six days of the week.

In our increasingly hectic existence, it has become somewhat uncommon for people to indulge in a day of rest. No doubt the practice seems somewhat decadent, not too different from a dog lolling in the sun on a glorious afternoon. Which, when you think of it, sounds pretty good indeed.

PW

Serious Goofing Off

Dear Will:

The new year brings with it a new routine for my Sundays. Because our ward shares its smallish building with another, we must alternate between the 9 a.m. to noon schedule and the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This year it’s our turn to congregate in the afternoon, and frankly I don’t like it.

I like having church in the morning. By noon, I can slip into some sweats and loll about with the kids or visit family in a nearby town. Having to postpone our meetings until after lunch just seems to throw of the rhythm of the day for me.

Still, I must admit that there is something to be said for having the morning off. This morning I didn’t flop out of bed until 7:30—decadent self-indulgence given my usual 5:30 a.m. alarm setting. After showering I came downstairs and discovered Bryn (she’s my nine-year-old) giving Seth (who’s 4) a piano lesson. It wasn’t going well, frankly, but the scene was charming nonetheless. After spending a few minutes with the morning paper, I threw some food in the crockpot (pork, sweet potatoes, and onions—yum) and then set to work on the French toast with homemade apple syrup. We didn’t eat breakfast until after 9 a.m., but the pace was marvelously unhurried. Around here, that’s a rare thing indeed.

After breakfast, I played Monopoly with Luke while his siblings cheered us on (my three houses on Boardwalk did him in) and then watched as the youngest two skipped out the door to take Barnum (the monster dog) for a walk. About that time I could hear my wife stirring upstairs. She has been fighting a bronchial infection but is always so crazy busy that she doesn’t get nearly enough rest. So it was that, guilt-free (well, almost) she slept and slept and slept. It was what she needed most, I’m sure.

And so I sit down to tap out this letter to you, reminded that it was a long, long time ago that God gave Moses (and the rest of us) this excellent counsel:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Isn’t it great that God not only gave us permission, but a commandment, to take a day off to veg out and spend unhurried, unharried time with family? I don’t think I could get through my week without it. It provides therapy for both the body and the spirit. I highly recommend it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious goofing off to do.

PW