While I was in Scotland this January, I watched a football match at the Stadium. The ticket costed about $300. Having a moment of struggle, I decided to buy the ticket, for this was the first time I was in Scotland to watch a match at the stadium. I had found a lot of interesting things happened in the stadium, but sorry to say that the match was not good, for the quality was relatively low. After the match, I blamed myself for going to the stadium, for I could watch the primer league at a pub with very low price. More importantly, I can watch Manchester united. After a few moment, I came to realize that I had missed the value of football, for it had been commodified. It was absolutely right for me to have the frustration about the match, but it was wrong for me to value the match in terms of money. The latter distorts the value and pleasure of football. I think you have similar experience but in different forms. Why is money that matters?
Money is more than a commodity for exchange. It is a powerful expression of instrumental rationality. Firstly, it is about calculability and quantification. Calculability and quantification themselves are for the sake of measurement. There is nothing wrong to establish a set of measurement, but it distorts our everyday life when everything has to be quantified. My critique is not over-reacted, for this has already been taken place in education, social services and church. My deepest concern is that the logic of calculability and quantification has penetrated into our mindset at the cost of giving up other values. Despite this, we feel being comforted, for the protection of Choi Yeun Village is to defend the value of homeland (家園) against the commodification.
Secondly, it is about effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is concerned about the outcome, and efficiency is concerned about speed. Effectiveness and efficiency are mutual related. For instance, if it takes 2 minutes to finish checking-out in the supermarket in which we assume this can be finished in 30 seconds, we would criticize the cashier ineffective and inefficient. Both effectiveness and efficiency are important, but it easily turns our everyday to be mechanical, for a word of greeting would be considered as a waste of time. One of rationales of the construction of high-speed rail is the idea of ‘an hour living circle’. It seems attractive, but can be very damaging, for it confines our life with ‘an hour living circle’. Paradoxically, this is called effective and efficient.
Thirdly, it is about predictability. The strength of predictability is to remove uncertainties as much as possible, but its weakness is to construct a confinement so that everything is under control as much as possible. Travel tour is exactly a good example of this. I had been in India several times, but I joined travel tour once. I understand that I would not have much freedom in travel tour, but more importantly, I am discouraged to go out on my own during free time. Predictability makes us lose the ability to think differently as well as hard to live with tragedy. As a result, people have no resource other than violence when they face the uncertainty of life.
Among religions, Jewish-Christian religion is very different, for the creation story has included a day of Sabbath. The seventh day is marked differently from the first sixth days. For instance, on the seventh day, there is no evening and morning. It implies that the seventh day is the eternal day, not a day within a cycle. Besides, unlike the first sixth day, the seventh day is not characterized by work, but by satisfaction and appreciation. The subject of the seventh day is God himself. This observation is important. That is to say, Sabbath is not the necessary and autonomous outcome of the first sixth working day. It is that God completes the work by declaring the seventh day as Sabbath, not the work itself. Without God’s intervention, evening and morning will go on and on, without a telos. On Sabbath, God’s intervention brings lives complete. Sabbath is different from, not against the first sixth days. Therefore, the holiness of Sabbath is not itself, but it completes the rest of the lives. However, this is an eschaton, but we can partially experience in our lives. In Christian tradition, this partial experience is Sunday. Since Sabbath is God’s purpose for the world, Christians do not hold the truth of Sabbath. In other words, Sabbath can be experienced in different ways, even in a secular form.
Unlike the first sixth days, Sabbath reminds us that our final consummation is not characterized by what we have achieved, but by God’s graciousness. This is why Sabbath is not measured by work. Effectiveness, efficiency, calculability and predictability play no role in Sabbath. Sabbath reminds us the importance of non-work’s elements in life. Non-work elements are celebration, leisure and entertainment. Sabbath is not only characterized by silence and songs of praise, but also by full of laughs, funs and excitements. Nevertheless, Christians do not give a fair assessment on laughs, funs and excitement in Christian living, for we are too bounded by work. God’s calling is most often understood as a matter of doing instead of a gift. As a result, our Christian life is too heavily moral burden.
Since Sabbath is the eternal, speed is not the main concern in Sabbath. Speed means nothing when there is no evening and morning. Our interim experience of Sabbath is best described by living slowly (慢活). Living slowly is opposite to efficiency and effectiveness. Living slowly may bring good to our health, but more importantly, it is against a city of forgotten. What effectiveness and efficiency have brought us is the commercial memory characterized by change, not the memory of life. The latter needs time to get the memory sunk, but not the former. We need the memory of life, for it is the memory that gives us identity and future. Living slowly is to create a space for life so that we are living, not passing. This is why it is easier for patients (terminal illness) to experience the meaning of living, but they are passing away. Paradoxically, we are living, but we are passing away.
Sabbath is not about time, but about fulfillment. In other words, Sabbath is not just Sunday (in Christian understanding). Nor is it holiday. It is true that we can take rest on Sundays and public holidays, but rest and fulfillment are not equivalent. Sabbath is a reminder to our desire. That is to say: Have you forgotten your desire in your life? Is your desire really yours? 4 years ago, I had a wonderful experience. On that occasion, I had a very late meal (消夜) with 2 friends. They asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I would like to be a tour guide.’ Unexpectedly, some days later, they called me and encouraged me to organize a tour to Scotland and Northern Ireland. In April 2006, I led a group of 20 people. I have to say thank you to my friends, for they bring my life to fulfillment.
However, we have to admit that we are still living in the world that has evening and morning. We cannot avoid the logic of calculability, effectiveness, efficiency and predictability. Keeping leisure leisurely without making it commodified, keeping living slowly and desire for fulfillment are the way of life that we should endeavour to preserve so that we can partially experience the promise of Sabbath.