Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

By Eric Brooks

I was recently reading a book by the esteemed philosopher and theologian Calvin. No, not John Calvin from the Reformation but Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes. The latter has an entire volume devoted to the Lazy Sunday Afternoon.

“God’s action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to ‘rest’ and should let others, especially the poor, ‘be refreshed.’ The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite.” (CCC:2172)

Before I go any farther, let me assure you I know God has called upon many of us to work on Sundays. In the military there were countless Sundays when I guarded flight lines, manned Access Control Points, or patrolled airbase perimeters. In one of my first civilian jobs I was the “hopper” in the back of an armored truck essentially every Sunday because there were two of us considered senior in that shop an entrusted with the “front half” of the vault combination. The more senior… seniorest?… of us chose to work Tuesday through Saturday, leaving me every Sunday to work.

For those of us blessed enough to have Sundays off, when was the last time you took a lazy Sunday afternoon off? And what does that even mean?

“It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.” (CCC:2172)

Fr. John Riccardo in his radio show Christ is the Answer provides some additional insight. To paraphrase him; if it seems like work, don’t do it, and otherwise you are fine. If you despise yardwork or cleaning bathrooms (yep that’s me) save mowing the lawn or weeding the flower beds for another day. However, if spending time in the rich black soil of your beloved flowerbeds brings you joy, spend the entire day there in peace. And if anyone really enjoys cleaning bathrooms, please stop by every Sunday at our house; I have some work for you.

We are a nation that has traditionally pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps, busted sod, worked the factory lines, and prided ourselves on our industry. We are workers, first responders, entrepreneurs, educators, and soldiers. These are certainly laudable goals and admirable achievements. However, when did that transform into a trio of soccer games or marching band practice every Sunday or swinging by the office and then answering a dozen work emails on our smartphone during dinner.

In those comics, Calvin is painfully aware of how transitory and fleeting Summer is. He wants to grasp every halcyon evening, every long day playing outside until his parents scream for him to come inside for dinner, every precious moment with his stuffed tiger before reality intrudes. Calvin understands, in a way many of us cannot, how fleeting our existence in this world is and how much God wants us to be happy until we can come home to Him.

Certainly 2020 has taken many things away from us. However, even before the virus and the lockdowns and the masks, how many of us had already give up our Lazy Summer Afternoons. What better a time to reclaim them.

Fireflies

It seems like there is so much noise in the world. 

I already know this is going to sound like a “get off my lawn” rant but when I look at my twins, their world is so radically different than the one of my own childhood. During the early to late 1980s we had exactly three broadcast television channels (I want to say Fox was added late during that period to make four) and if you wanted to watch a specific show you needed to be ready when it came on air and hoping your parents didn’t want to watch something different. The Internet (if you could call it that) was restricted to a handful of research universities and government laboratories, mobile phones existed but were literally bigger than a brick and more curiosities than mainstream devices, and custom music playlists were relegated to creating a “mix tape” on your dual cassette player. 

Certainly, there was a lot going on in the world. The Cold War was in full swing, numerous shooting wars and other unrest in the Middle East, the new War on Drugs, the Beirut Marine Corps barracks bombing, Mt. St. Helen’s erupting, Pope St. John Paul II shot in Saint Peter’s Square, Microsoft Windows changing personal computing forever, and so on and so forth. However, it seems as if we were now being constantly bombarded with noise… err news, and I believe we can all agree most news is bad. It is so completely instantaneous in a manner that was unthinkable a quick generation ago. 

Social Media was also something so nonexistent as to even intrude on the fevered dreams of the most ardent conspiracy theorist. Now, along with the news, we are constantly and instantaneously updated on what every airbrushed and meticulously curated celebrity is doing. On top of that “Influencers” (who thought that was going to become a thing) broadcast themselves as real people. As if real people are always on exotic vacations indulging in their every decadent whim. Quoting Baz Luhrmann, “Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.” Fortunately, we no longer need to read beauty magazines because that noise is transmitted directly into our brains through the three or four devices we carry. 

We are continuously warned to reduce our children’s “screen time” as well as our own, but that becomes incredibly challenging when even your refrigerator has an IP address and wants to talk to you through your smartphone about how the ice cream and beer are nearly gone. The noise has gotten so prevalent and intrusive that my wife cannot so much as go to sleep without waking up the next morning and her watch telling her how well she slept. 

Last night we returned home from my nephew and Godson’s birthday party. While everyone went about their Sunday night routine, I let our beagle pup out and was about to walk back into the house when I noticed the backyard was literally ablaze with fireflies. I mentally filed that away as a curiosity and soon enough Molly (the beagle) wanted back inside, had her dinner, and curled up on the kitchen floor. I had sat down at the kitchen table to polish my leather boots 

Then I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me. Shredding up our normal Sunday night routine I called down my wife and the twins and all of us went outside. It did not matter that the boys were freshly showered and barefoot in their sleeping clothes as they chased around fireflies in the wet grass. Ordinarily I would have been horrified at my wife going inside and getting a clean mason jar for them to capture said fireflies in (yes my OCD would require me to thoroughly clean it afterwards) and even the beagle was not afraid to venture out into the backyard with the porchlight turned off. Despite what she wants you to think, she is far, far from a fearsome canine.  

What resulted was almost an hour of the twins chasing Molly, fireflies, and themselves around the backyard in a velvety Summer night; giggling and laughing the entire time. My wife and I (between being chased ourselves) sat on the grass next to the fence and simply talked. Everyone was late to bed, particularly after second showers for the boys, and there was quite a bit of rushing around afterwards to get things ready for the workweek. However, for an hour all that noise was simply gone as the fireflies danced around our backyard. 

I encourage all of you to look for your own fireflies. Some way to shut out the noise for at least a little while before plunging back into the world. I can say that none of us were praying or speaking directly to God that Sunday night. However, I have no doubt He was spending that time with us, away from all the noise that keeps us from listening to Him.

 P.S. All fireflies were humanely released from the mason jar prior to us going inside.

-By Eric Brooks