Even Computers Need a Sabbath

David Thomas | Posted on 04/28/10

It is remarkable how many religions respect the idea of seasonal self-denial.  Islam has Ramadan.  Catholicism has Lent.  Judaism has Passover.  In Hinduism, an entire stage of one's life, Sannyasa, is devoted to asceticism.  Even the notion of a Sabbath suggests a microcosm of this cyclical moment of refrain.  While spiritually motivated, there are analogues in nature from hibernation to seasonal flora.  Even in technology, a computer can't run all the time.  A good reboot can cover over a multitude of glitches.  We seem to understand, on some fundamental level, the concept (and even value) of all things not being available to us at all times.

It is no less remarkable that many still choose to deny themselves in the face of increasingly reinforced consumerism.  The message of advertising is not do less; or take a few weeks off from consuming.  It's always you have a need; you have that need right now; you should fulfill that need right now; you should continue to fulfill that need at all times.  "Drink Coke."  Not "Drink Coke.  Then don't drink coke for 40 days.  Then drink it again."  This is compounded by an always-on society.  The ability to be constantly networked suggests the need to be constantly networked.  Just ask these University of Maryland students. There's no motivation to not check your e-mail for a month.

As our intake of advertising and ability to stay connected increases, I begin to wonder if self-denial will take a hit or, instead, if it will become a (self-imposed) luxury.  Resorts will tout the fact that they don't have Wi-Fi and serve only seasonal fruits.  Taken further, if somebody finds a way to sell us restraint, maybe we will start seeing advertising that says, "Treat yourself.  Buy nothing."

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