Happiness has become fleeting and elusive in these modern times. One of seven U.S. adults is estimated to suffer from a depressive disorder, and sales of Zoloft and Viagra are sky-high. In a survey of all the psychological literature over the last 30 years, it's reported that 96,000 abstracts contained the keywords "depression" or "anxiety," but only 415 mentioned "joy."
Despite our big houses, S.U.V.'s, and exotic vacation destinations, it seems we are suffering from instability caused by two very different personalities battling within us. Unless we create harmony between these personalities, we will suffer permanent inner conflict. Yet this dichotomy is as ancient as the Bible. It's seen clearly in the first and second chapters of Genesis, where two concepts of man are introduced. I call them "Work Adam" and "Rest Adam." These identities personify an inner lack of balance that has become epidemic for 21st-century man and woman.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we encounter Work Adam, or Adam I--he has received a mandate from the Creator to "fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it." G-d wants this Adam to distinguish himself through his productivity and achievement. Wherever you travel around the world, you will see the telltale signs of Work Adam, from the Roman Coliseum to the Empire State Building to the DVD player. Wherever Work Adam looks, he sees the need for improvement. He is the inventor and builder, haunted by the world's imperfections and dedicated to righting all wrongs.
But while there is glory and grandeur connected to Adam I's mission, he has no identity aside from his work. In fact, his name isn't even Adam. It's "the human," as in "And G-d created the human in His image."
He is the man who defines himself by what he does, rather than what he is. In today's world, he is the businessman who goes to pieces on vacations and sinks into a deep depression after retirement. He applies his principles of incessant labor to parenting, just as he does to his career. Identity is earned only through work, worth only through accomplishment. He is the disciplinarian parent of the hurried child, who molds and shapes his offspring in his own image.
In the second chapter of Genesis, we discover Rest Adam, or Adam II, a reflective, contemplative creature. His posture is radically different from that of his corporate counterpart. Rather than achieve dominion over the earth, Adam II is instructed to "cultivate the Garden of Eden and to nurture it." Created from the dust of the earth, he does not seek to master the elements but to be one with the universe. His task is not one of building but preserving, not one of dominating but of nurturing.
Work Adam finds his identity in doing, Rest Adam in being. The first Adam is concerned with the external world, the second Adam with the internal. All of the creative energy that Adam I uses to master the elements, Adam II uses to master his own spirit. Work Adam wrestles with the world's monsters and dragons, while Rest Adam wrestles with his own inner demons.
So what of our quest for contentment? Happiness is achieved only when we find a careful balance between productivity and purposefulness. The problem today is that Work Adam has almost completely smothered Rest Adam. People pursue money and celebrity above all else, while their relationships disintegrate though neglect.
But it is in our power to do something about it. We can liberate Rest Adam from his dark dungeon and reinvest him with his lost status. Society can once again show respect for those men who work a full day but then leave--no matter what--to go home to their kids. We should stop calling a man who has a billion dollars in the bank but is on his third marriage "a success."
We can restore Rest Adam to his rightful place by giving him back the Sabbath. In truth, the Sabbath has very nearly been obliterated. Shops are open seven days a week. We work on weekends instead of spending time with our children. And when we do rest, we escape outside ourselves into the world of television fantasy, rather than dealing with the more difficult inner realms of self and spirituality.
It's time to repossess our lives and reclaim our happiness. Discover your own Sabbath. Take that one day a week to totally divorce yourself from all things electrical, technological, and mechanical. Insulate yourself from all things that beep, ring, hum, flash, swirl, vibrate. Give Rest Adam a chance.