I continue to reflect on all these things. If you’re thinking about them too, let’s connect—drop a comment or email if you like.
Starting where we left off last time:
5. Rest is connected to community.
For those of us deeply committed—however subconsciously, and however unintentionally—to rugged individualism, this might be a hard pill to swallow. But I think it’s a good one.
“Much of our resistance to rest, sleep, and slowing down,” Hersey reflects, “is an ego problem. You believe you can and must do it all because of our obsession with individualism and our disconnection to spirituality. Nothing we accomplish in life is totally free of the influence of spirit and community. We do nothing alone” (18).
I think about this, as someone who spends lots and lots of time alone—you know, reading, writing, editing, trying to get stuff published, reading more, writing more, etc. Sometimes it’s tempting to think I accomplish whatever I accomplish on my own.
But that’s not true. Even when I’m not directly collaborating with others, getting feedback, or going through a revision process with an editor, I’m not writing alone.
I’ve been formed by all the people I currently know, all the people I’ve ever known. And by all the things I read, which are in turn written by people who were formed by all the people they know and all the things they’ve read, and so on.
All this to say, yes to Hersey on spirit and community. Spirit and community shape and give meaning to everything we do.
We’re not meant to do it all. We are meant to be part of communities that are doing something good, together.
Hopefully this is liberating—taking some of the pressure off, while not abdicating responsibility.
6. Rest is connected to history.
I think sometimes people talk and write about rest as if this present moment we live in is all there is. But I think it’s really helpful to, as Hersey does, connect our current complicated relationships with rest to a broader historical context.
For folks in the US, this historical context was shaped in every way by chattel slavery. (For more on this, The 1619 Project has helped me connect the dots. So many of our current structures and systems are the way they are because of slavery.)
“When I think about the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, chattel slavery, and plantation labor, I am stunned by how much we have chosen to forget that capitalism was built from these systems. An experimentation in how to push a human body to a machine-level pace for centuries led by white people dizzy with hate and brainwashed by a system that trained them to look at a divine, human body as property to be owned. This fact by itself is why I will never donate my body to this system and why I navigate my life from a politics of refusal and resistance. My consciousness and Spirit will not allow me to align myself with a system that still owes a debt to my Ancestors” (35).
The system owes a debt. Some of us want to forget. But we must not.
Our current economic system was built on something so brutal and horrible that much of white-dominated US society would very much like to pretend it never happened, or it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was.
For those of us who are white, maybe it’s not so much that the system owes our ancestors a debt—as it does to Hersey’s ancestors. But it is a system that dehumanizes everyone, in different ways.
We, too, get to resist this system. We get to reclaim our humanity—both by refusing to be dehumanized by capitalism’s demands, and by refusing to dehumanize others.
7. We have to expose the systems.
A little while back, I read a book on prayer by a prominent Christian author. I remember being so frustrated with the parts that addressed things like exhaustion and suffering.
It felt like the author was either unable or unwilling to think about the systems that cause our exhaustion and suffering. Everything was so personal. It’s all between me and God. But there’s so much more going on than that.
I appreciate that Hersey is able and willing to go there. She wants to “illuminate the systems making us unwell”—because not doing so is “to bypass the heart and soul of justice work” (66).
“I want you to see with clarity and focus,” Hersey writes, “that we are all living in a place that makes us unwell mentally and physically. We all have pieces of this sickness in us in some way. We have been bamboozled. This is why it’s so critical that we create systems of care to help people dismantle and decolonize their minds. None of the way we are living under capitalism is normal” (141-2).
None of this is, or should be, normal. The systems our society is built on are making us sick. That feels right to me.
I think of Andre Henry’s piece Why Therapy Isn’t Enough, I Need a Revolution. (Some related reflections here.) In Tricia Hersey’s words, we don’t just need to “[change] our individual lives,” but to “[shift] the entire paradigm of culture” (79).
This may sound like a tall order. And it is. But I don’t think we can talk about things like rest very well—in ways that place blame where blame is due—if we pretend that it’s only about our individual life choices. We need some fuller and more honest conversations.
8. We wrap our work in softness.
Hersey describes her work as “a resistance wrapped in softness” (79). I like that.
It feels like permission to not just be bold but to also be gentle—toward ourselves and one another. But gentle in a way that gives up nothing in terms of “stand[ing] up to the powers that be” (79).
I hate when people use the idea of gentleness as a means of control. As in, you should be gentler. Less disruptive. Less angry.
Hersey is furious. (Very justifiably so.) And she wants to be disruptive—in the best way possible. Disrupting the structures that aren’t working, refusing to comply with death-dealing systems.
And yet—there’s a way to reclaim softness in the midst of this. I want to join her in finding that way.
9. The time to rest is now.
Hersey applies the Christian metaphor of living in the world, but not being of the world (e.g. John 17:14-16) to her reflections on rest.
“We must spiritually disconnect from the shenanigans of grind culture,” she writes, “while physically still living in it. A metaphysical and spiritual refusal must be developed deep within. Capitalism may not fall in our lifetimes, and it is not redeemable, so the work is to begin to reclaim your body and time in ways that seem impossible to imagine” (136).
She goes on: “The time to rest and resist is now. We cannot afford to wait for the powers that be to create space for us to have moments of deep rest and care. If we wait, we will forever be caught up in the daily grind” (136).
We can’t wait for systems to change. We can’t assume that rest will come easier…later. The powers-that-be don’t particularly plan on making rest easy.
We can claim it anyway. And we can claim it now.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these reflections, these ways of thinking about rest, and these encouragements to rest.
May you “reclaim your body and time” this week, creatively and flourishingly.