I was on my way home the other night and caught part of a Terry Gross Fresh Air interview with critic and author Judith Shulevitz. The topic was Shulevitz's recently-published book The Sabbath World. It was quite an interesting discussion, touching on the historical aspects of a weekly rest, religious and a-religious perspectives, and the benefits of taking such a "time out." Obviously, the conversation was a lot more complex than that, but Shulevitz's ideas got me to thinking.
Interesting that, for a bunch of reasons, she found comfort in parts of her religion despite being a non-believer. She finds inspiration at synagogue not for the spiritual elements but in the beauty of the spoken and sung word. Her idea of applying the Sabbath to the modern world has to do (again, I'm reducing concepts here) with keeping the bonds strong between family, friends, and community. That the pace of the outside world is slowed can only be a good thing.
This is how I've always felt about the religious calendar in general. As a non-believer, post-service Sunday and events such as Easter and Christmas are attached to memories of houses full of family and friends. It's funny, I haven't attended a mass in years, and yet when I sit down to breakfast on Sunday morning, I remember doing the same thing at my grandmother's house. There would always be freshly baked bread and hard-boiled eggs. On Easter, add kielbasa and horseradish to the menu. A small bit of what keeps this connection strong is our kitchen table. I don't know how old it is, but it's the very same table that sat next to my grandmother's sunny kitchen window. That hardwood top with scalloped edges and that hidden leaf have seen a lot of food come and go. People too.