The concept of Jubilee originated around 3,500 years ago and was believably a cancelation of all debts every forty-ninth year; which means that on over seventy occasions since, it has almost never indeed happened. What is clear is that the principle of Sabbath was a close parallel: a day of work stoppage; and a weekly withdrawal from the anxiety system defined by production and consumption.
From ancient history, we learn about the cruel oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians. It began with enslavement and then harsh treatment. The slaves, initially expected to produce a quota of bricks with straw delivered by Egyptian labour, were supposed to make the same number by gathering the raw materials themselves. When this failed, Pharaoh ordered the annihilation of the Hebrew race by killing all the Israelite boy babies at birth. The story eventually moves on, and one of those baby boys, prevented from a premature death by the protection of Pharaoh’s own daughter (oh the irony), leads an uprising against the Egyptian oppression and initiates the concepts of Sabbath and Jubilee as antidotes to the cry and sorrows of their previous taskmasters.
As I learned, during my enforced ‘Sabbatical’ – a year away from all economic activity in bankruptcy – there are significant benefits to rest and recuperation. Personally, I was able to retreat deep into my shell and think through every aspect of what transpired before taking any action. I was able to content myself by dotting all the I’s and crossing the T’s: a strength that is highly valuable, but also a weakness as it tends to drag out making any decisions.
Apart from re-engaging with writing, I spent endless hours breaking up the monotony of life, walking our dog, named Chester. Now, I never use to be a doggie kind of person: never possessed one as a child; frightened that shedding of a dog’s coat would exasperate childhood asthma, and duty bound to the discipline of regular exercise; I was adamant that my family would not own one. However, my wife, sensing that I, and another family member, were close to nervous breakdowns insisted that we acquired a hypoallergenic cross-breed known as a Westiepoo (Westland Highland Terrier and Poodle) to help us in our distress. Chester became a godsend. His teddy-bear looking face and soft, wheat brown complexion opened up many a conversation, enabling me to introduce myself to a new community (or tribe) of dog lovers.
What I am not saying is that I love every dog or every breed or come to that, every dog-owner, but the walks and the dog, made me begin to love life again. Chester made me share life with others, becoming more relatable, interesting and fun. New friends emerged who saw the real me – not a cheesy “company brand” persona. In other words, I became more human again. Thus the subtle difference between having a dog and not enabled me to share life with a more relaxed and optimistic outlook: less distressed and anxious to produce bricks, and more keen to create shapes, memories and ideas out of stone.
My conversations with dog-folk, who I previously ignored, retaught me what’s okay and what’s not okay to share in day-to-day life, especially the details of how to explain financial vulnerability in a way that doesn’t hurt. I also began to share some of my idiosyncrasies in a blog and via Twitter in a nom-de-plus capacity. All-in-all, the dog, became a source of renewed happiness and guilty pleasure rather than representative of a fear and failure.