The weekend, according to calendars, is two full days and nights long, but I know better. In its true essence, the weekend amounts to three smaller segments of time: Friday night, early Saturday morning, and early Sunday morning.
Everyone knows that Friday, from the time you are released from work to the time you go to bed, is the most sacredly open stretch of real estate you’ll ever walk. Unreasonably — illogically, even — you assume that a vast meadow of mental meandering lies in front of you. Work is now the farthest thing from your mind. Like a free pass, you can play the Friday card however you wish, because there’s no such thing as “wasting time” on Friday — you already used it wisely at work, after all. Now, it’s all you, whether in front of a television, a computer monitor, a book, a sporting event, a movie theater screen, or a restaurant table.
There’s still some fizz in the Friday bottle by Saturday morning, too, but you have to rise with (or before) the sun for the full sizzle. Things get a bit flat when you rise at, say, ten. Do people still sleep that late? Other than teenagers, I mean? Probably not, but you get my gist. There is something holy about a house that still sleeps. Your loved ones and the dog may dream, but you are awake and the windows are painted black with only stars and the moon’s crescent to interrupt, so you feel you are the only one on earth alive in that moment. You and the early morning lonely sounds: the train horn in the distance, the owl in the back woods, the rumble of the furnace and the hush of hot air in the vents.
The same effect is possible on Sunday morning. Early risers (and Ben Franklin, who is stubbornly rising somewhere) know. You think better before dawn. The head is clearer. The body is rested. The coffee tastes better than it possibly could at, say, 4 in the afternoon. You are more creative. Go ahead. Try to write something. Or read a difficult author. James Joyce at 4 a.m. is your friend. After a hard day’s work? Not so much. An alien. A near-sighted Irishman bumping into walls at Ellis Island. You look at his sentences, scratch your head, and wonder who is doctor was.
The same is true of philosophers. The word “philosophy” is Greek for “Huh?” It is mostly old men trying to make end runs around God (wearing togas, yet). The x’s and o’s look impressive on paper, and the reader, like Hemingway, is left to comment, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” but nothing can look so pretty as plays written on a page called “theory.” An atmosphere of reality is often its undoing. Still, read in the dark vanguard of dawn, it makes some sense.
As for the rest of the weekend? Well, Saturdays and Sundays come with to-do lists, too — ones all the longer thanks to the crowded Smithsonian storage room we call the week. Groceries, banks, libraries, stores, social events, family events, you name it. And all with one design in mind — to bring Monday into your headlights that much sooner. Yes, you can get quite busy doing nothing, and the reward is something all right. It’s called “Whistle While You Work,” and, in dwarfish harmony, “Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, It’s Off to Work We Go!” Back-up vocal? The Monday-morning alarm.
Remember that the next time you’re blessed with a Friday night. Use your weekends wisely. They are as ephemeral as the rising sun when it briefly snags atop pine trees in the east. Blessed, and willing to pause if you slow down and focus on the moment.