09-22-13 - Secular Variations

A lot of secular people know that there is something nourishing about the rhythm of certain religious practices. Part of it is just having something that you do every week (or every day) that you aren't allowed to skip. It gives you a way of marking time, and gives a pattern to your life.

Church : obviously the community aspect is vital to human existance. There aren't many other ways to get that group inclusiveness without the irrationality of faith. I guess there are some secular cult-like groups that provide something similar (AA for example) where just being "one of them" qualifies you for special friendly treatment.

The other valuable aspect of church is just being forced to sit and think once a week. It does give you a way of re-centering yourself for the next week. Even if you just sit there and ignore the nonsense coming from the pulpit, that has value. I suppose you could get that benefit by doing a weekly meditation group. But even hearing the plathitudes from the pulpit is a good thing; it's good to hear things like "be good to your fellow men" or "make sure you get a lot of poon before you marry" or "bros before hos"; it's all stuff you know, but it's easy to get the mind off lost in complications, and it helps to be reminded of the basics.

Sabbath : I had the idea a while ago to try "secular sabbath". (I think this is kind of a trend at the moment). Sabbath here refering to a Big Leboswki style "I don't roll on shabas" kind of thing, a day of rest with strict rules. Just having a day once a week when you aren't allowed to do the things you do on other days. To break up the monotony and deny yourself the easy pleasures.

My Secular Sabbath rules : no work, no computer at all, no TV, no errands, no chores. Only relaxing, hanging out with family. No working out either; you can do exercise for fun or play, but "working out" is just a form of doing work or chores. No doing anything that's on a todo list. You can : listen to music, read books, take walks, cook, go for a country drive, etc.

Anyway, we tried Secular Sabbath once and it was SO HARD. When you forbid those things, there are just so many hours in the day. It's quite a shock. I'd like to try again, but maybe we have to ease into it, like half-day sabbaths first.

Salat (Islamic five daily prayers (waqt?)) : recently I was watching some documentary about Islam, and around the same time I was thinking about how I really need to be more regulat about doing my physical therapy every day, or even twice a day. It's so hard for me to make myself stop working and just stretch for a minute; it's so easy to just decide "nah, I'll skip the stretching today and just keep coding". And it clicked that Salat must be a wonderful break to your day. It's like what I always am jealous of cigarette smokers for. Having something that just stops your other activity and makes you go outside and be quiet for a few minutes.

What if instead of praying to Mecca, you just closed your eyes and did some stretching? Actual the prostrations they do is a pretty good light stretch, that's all you need. Do some child's pose and down dogs. Five times a day at strict times, no matter what. I think that would be really good for me.