Friday Night Lights-Staying Alive

“Nowhere Man, please listen
You don’t know what you’re missing
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command”

– The Beatles, Nowhere Man

Once a week, our family sits down together for a very special meal.

We make this gathering as beautiful as we can, backlighting the room with the glow of burning candles and setting our dining room table with nice china and flatware laid out on top of a gold-trimmed tablecloth.  We enjoy our favorite foods, usually chicken soup, salads, long rice, roasted chicken and large, fresh-baked home-made rolls.  It’s kind of like a weekly thanksgiving feast.

The scene is ecstasy.  My wife and I get to relax, the kids get to have soda, candies and maybe some brownies.  We talk, we even sing songs,  we reflect on life.  If we’re not too busy, we love to have guests over to join in on the fun.

Hands down, it’s the best time of the whole week because when we are at the table, the rest of the world outside our family is put on hold, there are no phones or electronics to distract us from being with each other; no screens to avert eye-contact, no texts intrusions or background noise from YouTube or PBSKids.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an angry boss or an important client, publishers clearinghouse or the KGB.

Thirteen years and we have never missed a meal.

Actually, it’s more than a meal, being Jewish and Shabbos observant, from Friday to Saturday sundown to sundown we have this wonderful time where we can disconnect from the world and reconnect with each other, we turn the volume down on life and enjoy the silence,  a detox from the past week that refreshes us for the week to come.

It may sound like a frightening proposition -going a whole day without checking Netflix, box scores or email or cycling through the various messages on social media.  We don’t bide our time with errands house chores either.  We love it though.

What do we do?  We relax, we talk, we read, I take a nice nap.  I find it so centering.  It’s a reminder that I don’t have to control everything, or that I was never in control anyway.     I am not so crucial that the world would collapse if I stopped working for a day.  I am crucial to my family with whom I get to spend time with-distraction free. The world can wait for me at sundown.

A favorite teacher of mine would remind us that before we walked into a room, take all our problems, concerns and fears and put them into a bag and leave it all at the door.  Smile and be pleasant, our bags will still be there when we leave, nobody’s going to take them away from us.

This mindset spills into the rest of my life during the week; I don’t always have to rush, phone calls can wait if my wife is speaking with me, texts go ignored if I’m reading with my children.

I heard a fantastic presentation from a man name Yaakov Lehman, and he reminded me that for the past few years, tech-free getaways and digital detoxes have become more and more popular.  Luxury hotels offer “blackout options” where you pay to have your electronic devices put on lock-down.  Articles like this one and this one (This one has hilarious PSA with Will Farrell) and scores more talk about this idea.   It is no secret,  people know they need to disconnect once in a while, but the allure of what we can find out there on our phones is too intoxicating.

I am not advocating anyone go live in the woods or detonate their phones but  I feel we all crave a release from the stresses of the world around us and desperately want to be present as much as we can so we can enjoy life to the fullest.  I get that once a week.

It’s not just about tech, I mean if you take away a jerk’s phone, he’s still a jerk and now he doesn’t have a phone.  How fun is that?  Turn off the phone, and then what?  The problem is what to do when that phone gets turned off.

And really, as long as life on earth existed there have been distractions that we have thrown ourselves into, perhaps ignoring or avoiding all the things that make really make life so beautiful.  Most people think they’re living, but they could just be surviving.

C.S. Lewis hit on this in the 1940’s in his fascinating book “The Screwtape Letters”

…you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room…

…All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”.

Allan Watts sums this up succinctly and beautifully:

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” 

Be alive.  Decide what exactly living means to you and run to that.

For me, being alive means awareness, family, growth, transcendence, service and more and I can’t do it when I’m anchored to my job, to status, objects and distractions.  The way I spend my Friday nights and Saturdays has been crucial to getting me closer to where I want to be.

Whatever you decide, live life. Don’t let life live you.

Shabbat Shalom.

Check out Yaakov Lehman at WisdomTribe.Global – very inspirational.


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