When I’m in the middle of a project, its conclusion feels like it will be this glorious moment of triumph. When I need a boost of motivation, sometimes I imagine the wild celebration I’ll have when the thing is finished. But inevitably, when I do finally slump across the finish line, all I want to do is curl up in a ball and go to sleep.
I think that’s why I relate to the idea of Shabbat so well. Even a supreme being is exhausted at the end of a big project.
The upside is that this kind of rest is really the best there is. There is no sleep like the sleep that comes from the relief of being done with something, if you ask me. My partner and I moved to LA from the Bay Area on a Thursday in July, and after we unpacked all day Friday, the rest that night and the next day completely redefined Shabbat for me. I’m never moving on a day other than Thursday again.
Tonight is going to be another Shabbat like that for me. After almost a year of work, my teammates at Burning Man and I just finished a massive project. It’s by far the biggest single Thing I’ve ever worked on. And you’d think — this being Burning Man — that all I’d want to do is go rage all night with the music blasting, but no. I want the opposite of that. I want to go sleep in an anechoic chamber in the dark for 1,000 years. But I’ll settle for Shabbos dinner. I’m going to enjoy the completion of this massive digital project by not even thinking about a computer for a day.
Here’s the thing, though: When you get used to the idea that Shabbat is synonymous with that deep, peaceful kind of rest, the whole week before that day begins to feel like a project. Any week, not just a so-called big one. Each week has its unique challenges, ups and downs. Most of my life, I’ve addressed those one day at a time. But a six-day perspective gives this coherence and purpose to it. All the little efforts of those days amount to a project that must be finished before Shabbat. It’s an art project, though, not a Deliverable™, which is the awful term for the things we client services people make for clients. The project of a week is just the expression of what life was like that week. It is what it is. And on Friday at sundown, it’s just time to put down the paintbrush.