A Universal Day of Rest: An Online Discussion

Jun 4, 2020 - 4:00 pm EDT - 5:00 pm EDT

We invite you to attend A Universal Day of Rest: An Online Discussion

Panelists: Bill McKibben, Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Nigel Savage, Rev. Fletcher Harper, Mark Silk, Benji Backer, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, Shantha Ready Alonso, Mirele Goldsmith.  Moderated by Jonathan Schorsch.

watch the video recording here

The world stands at a threshold.  A virus pandemic has done what decades of environmental activism and legislation has been unable to achieve: a consequential interruption of global production and demand.  Previously unimaginable reductions have been temporarily enforced on flights, motor vehicle usage, oil production, air pollution, and more. The human and economic price of these temporary achievements has been catastrophic, however, while the structural injustices that have caused so much suffering have been only worsened by the devastating spread of Coronavirus: wealth inequality, disparities in health care between different communities, weak or non-existent protection of workers — a hyper-capitalist system whose fixation on short-term profit and insatiable growth makes it indifferent to long-term individual and collective well-being.

Yet the still-spreading suffering and the shutdowns imposed as a desperate survival strategy have also given many a glimpse of another way of life.  For those privileged enough with job security or a sufficient savings, down time, time with family, time for self-care have been unexpected gifts.  People have started gardens, bought chickens and bees. In numerous news stories and opinion pieces, people report on seeing through things that they previously assumed were natural and necessary: self-sacrifice on the altar of work, costly and endless preening, fomo (fear of missing out), worship of celebrities, paying others to do things for us instead of doing them (for) ourselves — infinite forms of distraction, escape and vanity.

With these lessons in mind, we must ask ourselves as a society some existentially urgent questions:

  • What do we want to take with us after the lockdowns have been lifted?
  • In the face of a microscopic virus capable of humbling global human hubris, what have we experienced that is beneficial and necessary to keep in place?
  • What kind of world do we wish to step into when we leave our quarantine?

Before Coronavirus, “normal” was anything but. It was craziness. We were making ourselves sick, killing ourselves in pursuit of illusory needs.

Since our problems intertwine one with another, holistic solutions are needed.  A universal day of rest, a weekly eco-sabbath, an ancient spiritual technology repurposed for collective ecological survival, suggests itself as one powerful tool.  Sabbath properly practiced offers a weekly interruption of the suicidal econometric fantasy of infinite growth, a weekly divestment from fossil fuels, a weekly investment in local community, a weekly bit of rewilding, a respite for both humans and other-than-humans and a ritualized forum for meditating on how we want to live.  As Greta Thunberg reminds us, we already know what the solutions are for our environmental crises.  Green sabbaths will provide a recurring greenhouse for incubating the required collective consciousness and willpower — the ultimate renewable energies — to make the solutions reality.  Green sabbaths will constitute both a model and a foretaste of the ecologically-sane world to come..

What are the benefits and challenges of such an idea and practice?  What might such a day look like?  Would it unite or divide people?  What steps can we take now to make it happen?  Please join The Green Sabbath Project for a public discussion with environmental and religious leaders.