Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Hidden Agenda of Saint Monday

By Cheryl Oreglia


Is anyone curious about the origin of this concept? 

Apparently it's formation was biblical, imaginative, an act of greed.

Reaching back into the abyss of time I remember when weekends meant Daddy was home, decadent breakfasts, newspaper comics, lively board games, lawn mowers, Sunday drives, naps under the apple tree, and long periods of undiluted time. Never boring, more of an unhurried orientation, with delightful results. 

I think I may have felt more loved on the weekends as a child, although I didn't know how to articulate it, I now recognize how stress can mask the presence of love. And I work tirelessly to eradicate this particular situation in my immediate family.

Today most of my weekends are spent at the lake, with family and friends. Kicking it back. Enjoying the quiet. For me this is a writer's paradise.

What I want to know is why we ended up organizing our God given time into seven day cycles, five for work, and two for play? 
"We made up the weekend the same way we made up the week. The earth actually does rotate around the sun once a year, taking about 365.25 days. The sun truly rises and sets over twenty-four hours. But the week is man-made, arbitrary, a substance not found in nature. That seven-day cycle in which we mark our meetings, mind birthdays, and overstuff our iCals—buffered on both ends by those promise-filled 48 hours of freedom—only holds us in place because we invented it," Katrina Onstad.
Do we understand the absurdity of living our lives imprisoned by patterns we blindly adhere to, but fail to challenge, or query?

I did a little digging and although the weekend is a human construct, it was officially sanctioned during the industrial revolution by Henry Ford. Prior to the establishment of the Saturday/Sunday weekend employees often failed to show up for work on Monday of all days, claiming they were keeping Saint Monday (there is no Saint Monday, it was more of a malady), but this gave one permission to take a day off from the daily toil of work dominated by time clocks and managers married to profit margins. 

Do you know why watches were frowned upon in factories? This was due to the fact managers often tampered with the time clocks to rob workers of extra hours spent on the line. Pure greed.

I'm sort of charmed by the idea of a Saint Monday resurrection. I'll do just about anything to extend the euphoria of the weekend including tampering with clocks. 

Interestingly Benjamin Franklin bragged about earning a promotion by working on the fabled Saint Monday at a London printing house. What a total suck up. Franklin even invented a simple clock known as the three-wheel but it didn't have a minute hand like all clocks of the period. Made it easy for managers to push back time.

One of the key players in establishing the Saturday/Sunday weekend was the anti-unionist, auto tycoon Henry Ford. His methods were revolutionary but they also had a devious purpose. He more than doubled his employee's wages because his vice president, James Couzens, pointed out that not only would it be great publicity, but it might be the perfect incentive to motivate workers to buy cars. Also a two day weekend would allow leisure time in which to take long drives in the country. 

It practically caused a riot as thousands of people showed up to the Ford plant hoping for a higher paying job. The police department turned firehoses on the men in the bitter winter to squelch the growing mob. Can you imagine that happening today? Um? Yes I can.

The weekend as set by Ford standards was a time of rest but more importantly a time to consume. It's as if the corporations were dangling a carrot, keeping the ignorant consumer tethered to their jobs, so we could continue the cantankerous pattern of "spending time doing things you don't like, in order to go on spending, and to teach our children to follow the same track," as Alan Watts claims, "it's all retch, and no vomit, it never gets there," in his famous If Money Were No Object speech. 

"Time is now currency: It is not passed but spent," notes E.P. Thompson. 
"Oh, I just want what we all want, a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions, and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever." Elizabeth Gilbert
Why do we remain dedicated to systems that don't make us happy? I lose a quarter of my weekend come Sunday afternoon when my thoughts return to lesson plans, or lack there of, and the inchoate appeal of unspecified time slips through my fingers like water.

Speaking of water, for me the lake house is serendipitously tied to the weekend, as Sunday is to church, and yeast is to bread. 

This is my ode to miraculous beginnings...

There is this pristine moment when the early light eases into the landscape like butter on warm toast. I stand on the deck, coffee in hand, enamored by the movement of the water lapping against the dusty shore, even the mass exodus of the bats is spectacular. As the sun peeks over the eastern ridge cumulus clouds caress the mountain as if a mother tenderly embracing her child. The spring swallows sheltering in meticulously constructed mud huts swarm the skies, as schools of catfish, bass, and crappie lurk just beneath the murky surface of the water. 

I love waking to the subtle aroma of ground coffee along with the mesmerizing buzz of rice flies swirling in the soft morning breeze. In wrinkled pj's I pay homage to this most unique sanctuary before approaching my computer docked on the kitchen table with enormous reverence. This for me is a saintly practice. 
"There are some hungers that only an endless commitment to emptiness can feed, and the only true antidote to the plague of modern despair is an absolute, and perhaps even annihilating, awe." Christian Wiman
I realize it is impossible to pay bills and provide for your family without working but I do wish we had more opportunities to bask in the things we desire above all else. I suppose play would seem less attractive without work, as joy would be less appreciated without sadness. Finding a commendatory balance might be our only hope. 

I'm all for keeping Saint Monday, drawing out the pleasures of undiluted time, as we learn to step into the sacredness of all life. 

Where do you enjoy writing? What gives you inspiration? Share a few thoughts in the comments.

I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I just remember the Dowager Countess on Downton, "What's a weekend?" I enjoy writing in utter solitude but that is so hard to come by.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Haha - I totally remember the Countess' remark on Downton! That would have been a good addition to the post. I like to sit quietly - almost meditate - before writing, pull my thoughts together, and proceed with the privacy of my own thoughts. That rarely happens. Usually I'm up against a deadline, the families coming for dinner, and I'm madly writing with a grandchild in my lap, while the pork roast cooks. Life - thanks so much for commenting Kimberly!

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