Rest as a Radical Act

April 12, 2024

a dreamy image of a tree with the text overlayed saying can we nap here
5/20 9:44:17 UTC
NightDay
Turn off, tune out, take rest.

Going off-grid has been central to Early Majority’s values since the beginning. In the most simple and literal sense, that means stepping into the outdoors and attempting to disentangle oneself, however briefly, from the web of seemingly eternal ‘e-bligations’. But we also think of ‘off-grid’ in the more figurative sense. 

As we 21st-century serfs are ever more enclosed upon even bodily functions have been re-characterised as fiscally deleterious. In this moment, sleep ceases to be an autonomic and therefore peacefully accepted fact of life but is instead headlined as ‘costing the economy X billion dollars per year’.

an image showing a sleeping bear in the woods and grass, he has a paw covering his head. its a vintage national geographic image.
an image showing a sleeping bear in the woods and grass, he has a paw covering his head. its a vintage national geographic image.

credit: National Geographic - Joel Sartore

We could do some fascinating cultural gymnastics like the Japanese, with their habit of “inemuri” (“I am present whilst sleeping”): where nodding off in meetings signals exhaustion due to dedication to one’s job. Sure, we have softly furnished corporate spaces signalling recline (coded: ‘progressive’, ‘enlightened’, ’creative’). But basically, in the broad Western context, napping is taboo. Interestingly, recent research reports Brits (25%) and Americans (33%) are, in fact, having a bit of daytime shut-eye, but not because it is socially acceptable, rather due to working from home (where, curiously, you will earn a salary on average one-third less for a job based on-site).

two images over layed, the top image is naked dfemale body covered in flowers, the square image below is a person lying on a cliff overlooking the sea with the text saying I lost myself completely.
two images over layed, the top image is naked dfemale body covered in flowers, the square image below is a person lying on a cliff overlooking the sea with the text saying I lost myself completely.

credit: Imágen de Yágul, 1973

At the same time, a whole industry has sprung up around this inconveniently ineradicable feature of mammalian life. ‘Discover your chronotype’, ‘strap on a wearable’, ‘climb in a pod', 'make your mattress smart…' mostly conceptualising unconsciousness as a period of unbillable hours to be maximally streamlined, preferably by buying into some technological solution. If we really must sleep, we should at least consume. 

Instead of lying fallow, we seek to marshal, to corral; viewed through this lens of productivity, we must always be doing something.

the image show a white duvet in on the grass with some yellow flowers
the image show a white duvet in on the grass with some yellow flowers

credit: Julia St.Clair

a compilation of two images; the swaure image shows two hands sticking up out of long grass with the text overlay saying Everyone needs a break, to refresh themselves, the second image is  multi shaped and depicts a white sheet, open book and water bottle on grass.
a compilation of two images; the swaure image shows two hands sticking up out of long grass with the text overlay saying Everyone needs a break, to refresh themselves, the second image is  multi shaped and depicts a white sheet, open book and water bottle on grass.

credit: @nunoserrao

The Dutch might be a rare [Western] exception with their concept of Niksen: “doing nothing without a purpose”. The crucial qualification being: “without a purpose”, as if preempting the thought that any period of inactivity must be purposeful.

There’s a suspicion of napping, which needs to be allayed. And don’t get us wrong, we are pro-conscious, pro-productive! But where is sleeping life in harmony with waking life when we are told we should be ‘grinding’ hundred-hour weeks?

What we really want to express is that something is lost in instrumentalist thinking. There is such joy in leaning against a tree, lying down in the park, and pushing one’s hat over one’s eyes.

We celebrate this quiet act of rebellion.

Turn off, tune out, take rest.      

the image depicts a woman disappearing in moss that is strewn with mushrooms
the image depicts a woman disappearing in moss that is strewn with mushrooms

credit: Riitka Ikonen