My soul is weary and my bones are weak. Because of this correlation, I like to think that one’s soul is in their bones. From the smallest hammer in the ear to the femur in the leg, our soul could inhabit the very structure of our bodies rather than be balled up in one location. The essence of my very being is in my bones. As age progresses and the body deteriorates, my bones will stiffen; signifying the preparation that is taking place in the soul for evacuation. Haven’t you ever been tired in your bones, where it’s more than exhaustion of the body? It is a fatigue of the soul.
Like any other aspect of our existence, our souls take a beating, can be enriched, can tire. We must nurture our body, we must give it rest, we must strengthen it to increase its stamina; so, too, must we with our souls. Aristotle argued that the soul was to be improved daily, that constant work of virtuous habit could make it great. But we must have rest; we must not overstrain our souls. In addition to the heavy lifting of practicing virtue, we have the daily strain of relationships, school, work, wants, and needs. These are all competing for the resources of the soul: emotion, reason, and desire.
For a student in college, it becomes an ardent and difficult task to balance all of these things while trying to grow our character and soul. As young adults, we are finding out what kind of person we want to be and how we want to handle situations, but we are also filling our plates with clubs, classes, and social groups. All of this leaves very little time to actually assess our actions and the reasons why we are building the character that we are becoming. We throw ourselves at the heavy lifting equipment of life that will help to develop and strengthen our core, but sometimes we forget that rest is just as vital for the body to strengthen.
If one overworks anything or places more stress on something than it can handle, injury occurs. Maybe your character and soul cannot be broken like a clavicle or ripped like a muscle, but rest between exercising and testing it is necessary for that effort to turn into growth.
Today, we seem to take on such a busy lifestyle. I, for one, always feel as if I need to do more for my résumé, spend more time with my friends, or do something now. The more you do, the more valuable to future employers, the more satisfied with life, or the better person you will be. Don’t waste time, do something; but where is the room for reflection and choice? Where is the time for leisure? One needs rest for that.
Rest is not sitting in front of the television every evening for hours. That may be rest for your body, but depending on what you’re watching, it can be paralysis for your mind. Escape is not the same as rest and recreation is not leisure. This generation craves entertainment; we want to be engaged constantly. We work hard and then we demand recreation and escape. Work is serious but unpleasant; recreation is pleasant but unserious. But what is needed for true personal growth is a serious but pleasant endeavor: leisure. Making time for leisure allows your mind to wander and think about your actions instead of performing a new one to distract yourself. A lot of good can come from a desire to “do,” some channel it towards a career or public service while others use it on their Xbox.
But even when we are doing things that are good for us, going to college for instance, we can perform an action without the understanding that allows it to benefit us fully. A few generations ago, someone sat down and realized that post-secondary education is a good thing. I wanted to do what was good for my life so I went to college. I did not sit down, remove distraction, and then determine if college was good for me. I took the proverbial “them“ at their word and signed up. Of course, that is why children have people to guide them, but think about it for a moment.
We can do what is good but there must be more. The habituation that Aristotle spoke about in his Politics is good as far as actions, but for a person to really allow it to penetrate deeper, to penetrate their bones, there needs to be conscious thought and acceptance of that habit. I have had friends that acted a certain way because they knew that action was what was expected of them. But when the stresses of life increased, their character proved different than what had been their previous habit. They had acted right under easy circumstances simply because they had always acted so. However, they had never slowed down to consider their motives, the “why” behind their decisions. They had never taken a rest from being good so that they could try to become good.
But rest is not always as easy as it sounds. We have so many expectations from life, we pursue happiness constantly and we are wired to believe that it comes through action. Of course, hard work and industry bring about very good things and I am not diminishing the need for action. However, in order to pursue happiness, there needs to be time devoted to ourselves and not just to doing things. They told me to go to college, they told me to join clubs, they told me to study abroad, and they told me to make the most of my time. But what also needs to be encouraged is thinking about why you need to do these things, not merely because it’s the course that has been followed before. Without stopping to contemplate how your actions affect you or why you make certain decisions, half of the good done by those actions can be lost on us. We go to college not just to get a degree and build our résumé but to learn how to handle life on our own as well as countless other things. And to make the best decisions, we have to think about them and weigh what we believe to be right and wrong and think about what makes that belief true.
Without a necessary break from the hustle and bustle of life, we can overwork not only our bodies but also our soul. When we become so busy that we cannot analyze our actions, we move to a dangerous place and become more than just tired; we become exhausted to our core, until even our bones are weary. Don’t ever give up working diligently but remember to relax and take a break from time to time, not for recreation, but for serious leisure. Repose and think about your day, your life, and let your heart, mind, and soul process all they have taken in. In the end, your bones will thank you for it.
Jaclyn Horn is a junior from Waynesfield, Ohio majoring in Political Science and History.