Working Hard at Not Working

041 — “The Land and the Restless”

Work is a strange creature. For many of us, we don’t particularly enjoy work. There are those who do love their work and I’m happy for them. For the majority of the population, however, work is something that is done to pay the bills. And that pay-the-bills job is rarely the dream job.

Your average person looks forward to clocking out and not having to be at work. Yet, take the same average person and introduce the idea of not working one day a week and they have a hissy fit. Why? Folks complain about having to work then, when you say, “Take a day off,” they get angry and refuse. Sad to say, that was me.

Just relax, will ya?

Not working on Shabbat was one of the hardest things I had to overcome in my walk with Torah. Yet I didn’t like having to be at work. That sounds all backwards, doesn’t it? You would think that I would have run up and laid a big fat kiss on the first person that told me that I should take a complete day of rest according to the Bible. Instead, I responded with a big fat, “Whatever!”

For months and months, I continued to work on Shabbat. Granted it wasn’t necessarily my job I was working at—that ended at five o’clock Friday night. No, I was working on my own stuff. I was working on the things I wanted to work on. And, as strange as this sounds, I was doing housework. Yes, I said, housework! That means that, instead of kicking back and relaxing, I preferred to scrub a toilet.

Discomfort in my comfort zone

I began to realize that, while I craved rest, I still continued to work, even to my discomfort. Then it hit me. I wasn’t working because I wanted to work, I was working because that was what I was used to doing. I had been programmed to not rest, neither on Saturday nor any other day. And here’s the weird thing, Americans are obese and lazy yet we can’t take a day off? We have officially entered the Twilight Zone.

The first thing I did was refuse to do yard work. This was pretty easy since I don’t like yard work and usually hire the old man next door to mow my lawn. No more of that…at least not on Saturday (not for the old man either). Next Shabbat work sacrifice: housework. This was harder than I thought since the image of a dirty dish is more uncomfortable than actually washing it. But I persisted and blew off doing the dishes and everything else around the house.

The last, and most difficult thing for me to give up was drawing my comics. This was tough because 1) I enjoy drawing my comics, and 2) the weekends are great for getting ahead with one’s own endeavors. The weekdays are mostly taken up with a job so Saturday and Sunday are like big open fields of creative freedom time. I’d put the pencil down but I could almost hear my cartoon characters calling out to me to make them live. I don’t have children so these characters are my babies. It hurt to not spend time with them. I feared they would leave me and one day I’d find them living it up in a Dilbert strip or something.

Define “work”

I did rationalize my comic creating for a long time. I told myself, “I’m really not making a lot of money with this comic strip stuff so it’s more of a hobby. And a hobby is not work, right?” That convinced my mind for a little while but the realization that I wanted to make money off of these comics one day made it work. Plus, I wasn’t focusing on God so that pretty much sealed it.

I’m happy to say that I am now work-less on Shabbat and happy. I look back and wonder why I ever wanted to work at all. In fact, I now want Shabbat to be every day! I can’t get enough of praising God and fellowshipping (is that a word?). Instead of my own stuff overflowing into the Shabbat, Shabbat overflows into the rest of my week. I no longer have to work at not working on Shabbat. That, to me, is the definition of true rest.

Weaning Off Processed Food is a Process

049 — “Clean Trash”

Recently I was notified that pork was being added to certain foods under the title of “enzymes.” I remember the word “enzyme” from my school days but I’d be lying if I claimed to recall exactly what it is. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s one of those squiggly things in the cell along with the nucleus, the cytoplasm, the DNA, and the jelly. I was never good at science, if you can’t tell.

In any case, looking at labels is not good enough anymore. How was I supposed to know that my favorite spicy cheese puff had pork in it? And furthermore, why do food manufacturers feel that they have to put pork in products and label it some scientific name that I have no way of knowing what it is? Do they think I’m stupid? Well, they’re correct but that doesn’t give them the right to fool me like this! (That’s right, I added an exclamation point. If I keep getting angry I may just go ALL CAPS on these guys.)

Blame it on the Lay’s

But who’s at fault here? No one is forcing us to purchase Cheese-ritos or whatever they’re making. Sure they taste fantastic and are more addictive than some street narcotics, but we don’t have to buy them, do we?

The problem is not in the prerogative, it’s in the programming. I’ll admit that I’ve allowed myself to be programmed to purchase processed food, singing the commercial’s jingle all the way to the corner store. Still, there’s something wrong about misleading people with such tactics.

The process of being processed

What is processed food? According to my internal encyclopedia, processed food contains:

  • One ingredient that has been modified and packaged for sale (e.g., milk, butchered meat), or
  • Two or more ingredients that have been blended together and packaged for sale (e.g., pretty much all junk food and 95% of everything else)

Now, please take that 95% with a grain of salt (also processed?). My internal encyclopedia has a margin of error around 40% (and I can’t say if that number is correct either because of the margin of error). Regardless, that’s a lot of percent. When you go to the grocery store, everything is basically processed food.

A while back I went through a phase where I was only going to eat food which I understood; the nature of the ingredients. That lasted, oh, about 15 minutes. I had honey, butter, and some nuts. I didn’t even know what a “hot house” was so I stayed away from tomatoes and their ilk. Also, the stuff that was pure was expensive. I decided to go the what-I-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-me route. The information superhighway, however, is making it hard for me to remain blissfully ignorant.

Not-so-fast food nation

So what’s the answer? Ideally we’d all have small farms where we would grow our own veggies and fruit and animals and such. But most of us live in compact city environments. Even if we did have abundant land, we don’t have the knowledge of what to do nor the time to do it.

What about the farmer’s market? Well, if you’re a fellow Sabbath-keeper, you may find farmer’s markets a bit difficult to patronize. Some strange board of directors out in the universe somewhere has deemed Saturday as “farmers market” day. Off-day attempts at farmers markets leave you with the leftover wilted stuff and that lady who makes her own soap or some guy who whittles.

Maybe I’m being a bit too grim. Maybe we’ll find a solution that I haven’t thought of. If you have the solution, please send it my way. I desperately want to eat the way the Father intended. I want to avoid the bad stuff and stick with the good stuff. I’ll give up all my -ito’s chips if I could have what’s best for me. It may take a grand paradigm shift. It may mean we have to re-learn everything about food. But we can do it, right folks? Even if it takes a lifetime. After all, that’s what we’re doing it for. And remember, it’s like they say: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (This article does not endorse the eating of non-kosher elephants nor their enzymes.)