Skip to main content

The grind is destructive

The nice thing about the human body is that it wears out. It wears down. It can, as The Rule of Benedict says in Chapter 64, be “overdriven.” To be more precise, the Rule is talking about the abbot or prioress in the chapter when it says, “They must so arrange everything that the strong have something to yearn for and the weak nothing to run from.”
The point is clear: Good leadership does not ask more of the worker than the worker is capable of doing. Whatever happened to that kind of wisdom? And how much further can we possibly go unless we rediscover the value of such an insight?
The really interesting aspect of such an ancient directive is that it was written in the sixth century, before lightbulbs, before humanity could do little or anything about extending the day into the night and veritably erasing the difference between the two. It was a far cry from a world in which the Internet links the ends of the earth twenty-four hours a day. 
Now we drive ourselves relentlessly from one exhaustion to another. We pace our societies by the pace of our computers. We conduct the major relationships of our lives—both professional and personal—according to the speed of our communications.  We measure ourselves by the amount of our productivity and every day we become more exhausted, less rested in body, spirit and mind, and so less capable of producing things, let alone of developing relationships, as a result. That’s not irony, that’s tragedy.  And though we know it, we do not know what to do about it.

Point: The grind is destructive of both the person and the work. Unless the soul can be refreshed enough to think, to create, to recoup its energy and its interest in the work at hand, there is no hope for either recall or creativity.
Maybe what we all need most is time to process what we already know so that we can put it together differently, even more efficiently than ever before. Maybe we need to think a bit, out on a porch in a summer breeze, down by the creek when the trout are running, back in the garden when it’s time to put the beets and beans in again.
Turn off the television and read a good book. Quit texting and ride your bike. Close the computer and go to a movie. Don’t answer any emails. Don’t try to “get ahead.” Don’t take any callbacks. And during the family dinner, turn off the phone.  And when the television is on, watch it instead of talking through it. Reclaim your life, your thoughts, your personality, your friends, your family.
No, the world will not end. And then, on Monday, go back to work—having really gotten away from it all—feeling like what you have to do is really worth doing. As Ashleigh Brilliant says, “Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest.”

      —from Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life by Joan Chittister