Spectacularly Successful Work Days, Days of Breakthrough Happiness
'Thank God It’s Monday'...not a phrase that is commonly on the lips of those waking to the new working week. At least, that is true of yesterday’s Mondays. What of tomorrow’s Mondays, tomorrow’s yet-to-come, social time, freshly minted new weeks?
As religious futurists, we are asked is there any value in our profession? I suggest that if we can boost our productivity and mood and happiness and profitable use of time and life - the answer is yes. Here’s a way. A new way to organize time. A new way to think about a week working for God. A new concept of a sacred week. Holy, sacred social time.
We go to work. The boss wants..what? Not just that we show up, but that we grow up: that we improve the company: that we create, inspire, produce, grow, succeed, elevate the whole company or group with and for which we work. And is that not what the Supreme Boss also wants?
Put it this way: God wants us to ‘be about our business,’ to make our lives and our businesses grow: to make them manifest within their culture, their mission and their products the glory of God as shown in the values of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the archetype of all “Lands of the Free.”
“My Father is still working, and I am working,” says Jesus in John’s Gospel; and, “Greater things than these ye shall do, for I go unto the Father....”
A week of work to the religionist is - a week for God, a week working with God.
This implies inspiration. In this article I shall inquire into some ideas about how to have an inspired workweek, simple ways to boost the world national product and be happy; to be a light to the world of work.
Top level creativity is thus the basis of a new definition of the Working Week: Creativity coming from the top level - the divine Spirit - leading all work-teams, organizations, companies, to the highest level of output and creativity - through the presence of the divine Spirit not just in space and in our minds - but in our time, in our social time and in our structured work-life weeks.
It’s been said that marriage is ten thousand bleary-eyed breakfasts shared (sometimes with a newspaper intervening) across a table. Monday mornings likewise are all too often bleary-eyed, resentful, exhausted and unwilling entries into a week of “quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau said in Walden Pond of the lives of most human beings.
Do we associate the return of consciousness on Monday dawn (if we get up in time to see the dawn!) with hope, happiness, electric expectation and joy - or with gloom, fatigue, hopelessness and bitter resentment? God, entering into social time, into human history calls us and leads us to workweeks of joy, breakthrough, the ecstasy of successful work, the elevation of self-esteem and profitable living.
The phrase, “Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF)” has become well known in the English speaking worlds in recent years. We all know what it means! The working week is evidently considered, in this phrase, to be the source of much unhappiness - 9-5 with its boring commute and often soulless or degrading, dishonest work - it’s a real drag. It’s not a place to be real. The workweek is a nuisance compared with the excitement and the feeling of the sheer joy of being alive which many associate with the weekend and its parties and sports and recreational activities and worship and family joys.
TGIF: Industrial civilization and its strain is declared to be over for a couple of days; and the weekend for which we evidently are really living is declared to be under way. TGIF? It means I thank God for this weekend. It implies that we thank God perhaps for rest from hard labor, rest from unjust working conditions, rest from stress, strain, rest perhaps from sick buildings and sick (or worse, dysfunctional) colleagues.
What is not usually implied, however, by this phrase TGIF, is that we thank God for the opportunity we have been given to work. We do not say "thank God for what I have accomplished during this working week." In fact this rhythm of reflection is for the most part is absent from the western secular tradition, but it is not absent from the western spiritual tradition.
There are many religious contexts actually in East and West that see work, labor, toil as a veritable path of God consciousness, contentment, a spiritual realization. From the Benedictine theory of manual labor as a way to mental health to the theories of Brother Lawrence practicing the presence of God during the washing of pots and pans in the monasteries - to the Samurai archer feeling the arrow fire itself with mindless mind - or the Russian monks, described in the Philokalia, thinking of nothing but God - to the Indian agricultural worker blessing the land as he furrows it - to the Chinese tradition of the Taoist itinerant scholar or Wanderer, we have a worldwide tradition of respect for work as a path of holiness and happiness.
Why then do we not say usually TGIM or Thank God It’s Monday? One psychologist has written that for the moment of awakening on Monday morning to the worker in the western world is a moment of misery, depression, dread, or boredom. This psychologist speaks metaphorically of the 'tapes' which play in the head: "Oh, no: it's Monday again. Another working week, another five or six day period spent far away from the things that really matter, the things that really make me happy."
Perhaps the situation is more rare than would be implied in this psychologist’s idea or in the phrase "thank God it’s Friday," perhaps not. We really do not have enough sociological information to say. But we do have some interesting questions for religious futurists that we can ask about the working week. And the first of these is particularly for Christians and also for Muslims and Jews since all three religions have essentially Sabbaths on the weekend - Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The question is why does the inspiration of the holy Sabbath not spill over into the working week?
I would like to suggest that the time has come when this spillover can take place. I propose Monday as a day of religious inspiration and the greatest happiness. This proposal is not arbitrary, nor is it a matter of making the wish the father of the thought; for it is based on actual theological reasoning.
This is a somewhat strange phrase, "theological reasoning." It is typified by studies of the phenomenon of the Sanctification of Time. We can read more about this in the book well known to theologians The Shape of the Liturgy. This study, by a mid-twentieth century British monk, of the sanctification of time in the western Christian liturgical tradition, asks us to understand that there are many kinds of time. There is not just physical time or the meta-time associated with Einstein and Quantum physics. There are many kinds of social time in which we carve up the flow of temporal experience to segments congenial to our values.
Interestingly, the 'controversial' Episcopal Bishop John Spong in his book "Easter Moment" suggests that it took a conceptual revolution for the early Christians to change the day of the week, which was the Sabbath, from Saturday, which they inherited as Jews, to Sunday that as Christians they celebrated as the day of the resurrection. The resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus Christ changed social time in a revolutionary way, just as the birth of Christ changed the calendar for many peoples.
Historical time is divine time: that is why we call it BC and AD in the Christian tradition: the year is of "our Lord" (anno Domini).
This mention of the doctrine of the resurrection points to a most interesting piece of Christian theology. It is that the Holy Spirit, God, The Lord, the third person of the most Holy Trinity, who raised the Lord Jesus Christ from death is perhaps quintessentially the agent of the sanctification of time.
If, as religious futurists, we may allow ourselves a little speculative thinking, the question may perhaps arise whether there is any spiritual energy ensuing from the day of the resurrection - just as in the birth of the church the action of the Spirit in the resurrection was succeeded by the action of the Spirit at Pentecost in the founding of the church.
In other words the sequel from resurrection to Pentecost to Christian mission can be reproduced within each week itself - including within each working week.
Therefore, we would, according to this line of reasoning, want to proceed to ask ourselves if our Sunday is a spiritually dynamic day, not just a day of rest, a Sabbath, but a day of resurrection, a day of celebration of the mighty acts of God. What would this imply for the beginning of the working week? The beginning (Monday) in which under the inspiration of these acts of God remembered on Sunday we begin our own creative acts as empowered religious persons, citizens of the new kingdom of Heaven on earth.
My suggestion is, to put it plainly, that Monday is a day that can be, should be and shall be increasingly widespread in popularity and fashionableness, as a day devoted to the most radical creativity and innovative thinking and action that we can ask or even imagine. A day or work-joy. In saying this I am by implication quoting the Bible: for St. Paul writes, "thanks be to God. His power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Thanks be to God from generation and generation in the church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever." (Ephesians 3:20-21).
This is also a good time to remember the fourth gospel where Jesus says "Greater things than these ye shall do for I go unto the Father". When will we do these greater things, why not on Mondays?
Such literal thinking may seem strange to western minds but the Hebrew cast of thought has always been extremely concrete. And here we have an opportunity to embed within time itself the habit, not just of what you might call workaday creativity and imagination, but the most profound exercise of spiritual creativity that we are able to mediate at any given time. And this time we are suggesting is on Monday, the day after the resurrection, the first day in which we work, in the power of the risen of Christ and in the new dispensation of the Spirit.
What then would we say on Monday morning, what would we think, what would we feel if we arose anticipating that this would be the day when we would do great new things for God. That we would think great new things for God, that we would be great new people for God, that we would develop the theory and practice of innovation. Not just religious innovation but any innovation to the greater glory of God.
To put this another way, what we are proposing is that the habit of radical or eschatological creativity becomes embedded in the structure of social time itself, that is within the working week. In fact, with this outlook we can recast the whole working week as having suited to each day the nature appropriate to this transformation of thinking about the work-week by the this sanctification of time.
If, therefore, Sunday is the day of the resurrection then Monday, in a profound way, is the day of the spirit among the people, the day of the Church in the world. This has marvelous consequences, as I have said, for creativity and breakthrough thinking.
We could ask ourselves what might be a new sanctification of week-time such that each work-week is in a fresh way a kind of “holy week.”
Our analysis offers a new septurnal rhythm of creativity. This could be stated in the following way.
Monday is a day of new creation. It is the New Day signifying the new act of God in the incarnation, in the crucifixion and the resurrection.
Monday! Hail to you as the day for ultra-innovative thinking and acting. Monday! The day of human revolutionary acts just as Sunday was the day for God’s revolutionary acts.
Monday is not the whole workweek, M-F. We would not expect human nature to be such that this could be sustained all through the week. We know that God rested himself on the seventh day.
There are many reasons for resting. One of them is for digestion and assimilation. So, therefore, I would propose according to this new concept of the working week a clearly defined role for the day after Monday’s splendid creativity and heroic imagination.
Tuesday would be a day for digestion and assimilation of those new creations of products and projects and relationships that have been launched on Monday.
I would like to think that since the business of America is business, and we are writing primarily for business work-week supervisors, that Wednesday each week would be the time to put our products to work, in other words to make them pay. And Thursday, therefore, would be a way to celebrate the success of the products conceived, produced, and launched Monday through Wednesday. I would propose too that Fridays be made a time to contemplate the previous week’s work and the next week’s work.
I would like to draw this article to a close by expressing the above points in a simple poem. Scholars of poetry might like to know that this written in midair on the 21st of January en route from Dallas to Seattle; and the following is the poem:
Monday’s new creation day,
Tuesday’s for digestion,
Wednesday’s time to make it pay,
Friday’s time to contemplate
the next week’s work.
Saturday we recreate
and Sunday go to kirk**.
To conclude, we would ask, as religious futurists, what evidence is there that such a restructuring of the workweek could take hold. The evidence lies in the experiments that must be done at this point by religious persons who can experiment with these different conceptions of the working week. And by such experiments they will see simply if they are true? True? True in the American sense of, the philosophy of pragmatism.
That is to say: do they actually lead to the consequences that I have portrayed in this article?
Therefore, let us look forward to an experimental period between now and January 1st, 2003 in which a group of dedicated temporal pioneers, in the worlds of work and religion, will test these theories.
It is perhaps something especially well suited to young people. I hope this is not necessarily so if only because this article is being written by a man in what might be called advanced middle age....
**This is a Scottish word for church
***There are a few people using the phrase, ‘Thank God It’s Monday’. cf. http://www.parentsforchrist.com/nana/tgim.shtml