Desert Sabbath

02 Apr, 2012

Before and behind, the desert of New Mexico stretches out its quiet brilliance. I’m paused in the cultural oasis of one of the weird West’s more curious holdouts: Roswell. Little green figures fill shop windows from real estate agencies to El Marcionito Cowboy Wear. Whispers of conspiracy and mystery are part of everyday habits– the latter bringing life and the former choking it. But a gaze at the night sky is all expanse and brilliance. It is a good reminder of the world outside our habits.

The seasons both liturgical and natural have changed. For those of us in North America, spring is well under way. For me, it is a phase of the trip that requires quieting. Through the desert, I’ll have less internet access and fewer contact with the greater Carbon Sabbath community. Instead of fighting this, I am planning on embracing my surroundings. I’m going to take a pause from the Carbon Sabbath blog. I hope that you can be enriched by the time that you are not reading this blog. Perhaps it is an opportunity for you to explore a small Sabbath practice in your own life. For those of you who are new to the blog, maybe this will give you a chance to look back on the past year’s adventures and musings.

In the fields of both environmentalism and spirituality, there is a long history of individuals seeking solitude in the desert. From Anthony to Abbey, many men and women that I admire found deep connection with both the planet and the divine in the austerity of this harsh landscape.

It is counter-intuitive that so many people find deep connection with the divine and the natural world in the desert. Our instinct is to suppose that our basic needs must be assured before we can look beyond ourselves. I have found the opposite to be true: I cannot fully appreciate or account for my most basic needs without recognizing my connection to the world beyond me. I still look for conveniences and connection in all of the typical places– technology, stability, etc. But those conveniences can cloud and clutter my vision. That’s a bit of what is so amazing about the desert: life is stripped down. When my concern is on having enough water, I can’t focus on the countless internet chores to which I could attend. Life becomes stripped down to its essentials. In that state, it’s much easier to recognize our dependence on others and divine love at work. It’s easier to see how our physical being is part of this planet and how the condition of the planet is crucial to our expression of caritas.

The virtue of life stripped down is at the heart of Sabbath. So often, we feel compelled to do more—to get more done, check off a list, work harder—in order to find peace. The truth is often the opposite. When we do less, we focus on what we are doing. By doing less, we clear our minds and get a better sense of the world beyond us. With regard to climate change, the ability to find Sabbath can both limit our impact and also give us the energy and focus on the divine that we need to address the significant challenges we will face for generations to come.

Until we meet again

More restored in simplicity

Than we thought possible