Sabbatical report

I’ve spent much of the first two months of my five-month sabbatical moving from our old apartment to a new rental. Surprisingly, this has proved to be one of the best things I could have done with my sabbatical. Before we moved to Silicon Valley, we had moved five times in ten years, and each time we moved I was starting a new job or a new graduate program, and I didn’t really have time to unpack. But for this move, I actually had time to do things like go through old files and get rid of papers I no longer needed — in the past two weeks I’ve recycled (or shredded and composted) enough old, useless paperwork to fill a four-drawer file cabinet. I got rid of hundreds of books that I no longer need or want. And I’m getting rid of other belongings, too.

In our consumer society, it’s too easy to accumulate more belongings. You don’t need to spend lots of money purchasing new things at the store or online — we have accumulated many of our belongings at the thrift store or yard sales or through Craigslist, or even by trash-picking. (And with paper being so inexpensive, it is far too easy to accumulate files and paperwork.) All these things become a sort of spiritual dead weight; they can weigh you down slowly and stealthily so that you don’t even realize that you’re no longer able to move freely.

With all I’ve gotten rid of, I still have too many things. I’m working on getting rid of more stuff; it’s a kind of spiritual exercise at this point. I do have a couple of research projects that I’m working on during my sabbatical, that I’m not talking about right now, in case they don’t pan out; but even if those research projects don’t pan out, getting out from under the weight of too much stuff would constitute a successful sabbatical.

2 thoughts on “Sabbatical report”

  1. Hello!

    I wanted to send you a friendly note and let you know how you came into my thoughts recently. I’m 28 years old now, and I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA over at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and then becoming a Park Ranger. I’m hunched over, overcome with a little bit of a cold, and typing up a curriculum about the underground railroad for three kids that come from the MET School in Rhode Island to us to intern.

    I’m coming up with names that are nagging at me, that I know them somehow: Grinnell, Peabody, Ricketson…I know these names. And then I did some googling and found your blog post about them, and remembered the sermons in the past that discussed abolitionism and that tradition.

    It brought back so many wonderful memories, and also a sense of pride of choosing to be part of a congregation such as this. It prompted me to write to you, to want to tell you that you really helped shape a lot of formative years, and that much of the mentoring I’m getting at the Park reminds me a lot of when you ministered and mentored. So I wanted to thank you. I’m the happiest in this past year than I have ever been in my life.

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