Professor explains why it's hard to rest even when your tired

Published12/6/2009 12:02 AM

I am always tired but I have trouble going to bed. I have been this way most of my life. There is always one more little thing to squeeze in for work or for the house or for something before I surrender the day. Sometimes I wait until I am so tired that I am too tired to make the effort to actually go to bed. What a paradox!

This past week I had the opportunity to interview Al Gini, professor of business ethics, Graduate School of Business, Loyola University. Gini is in demand as a speaker for a wide variety of interest groups, including librarians. Also, as he can be regularly heard as the Resident Philosopher on National Public Radio's Chicago affiliate, WBEZ-FM, I thought he would make a good podcast interview. I was right, and as a bonus, I got some insight into my own question about why it's hard to rest even when you are tired.


It turns out that Gini is a fellow sufferer. In the preface to his book, "My Job, My Self: Work and the Creation of the Modern Individual," Gini offers his own confession: "I am now and always have been a workaholic. Given my fascination with this topic, I am sure you're not surprised. But I am working hard (no pun intended) to control my addiction. Ironically, this project has made me appreciate and love my work even more. Nevertheless, I do not want to die at my desk with my last words being, 'I wish I had put in more time at the office.'"

Trained as a classical philosopher, Gini has the background and the skill to research this issue. Happily for the reader, he is a very human and funny man, a lover of words and a good writer. In "My Job, My Self" Gini notes that work in our society is more than a way to earn a living. It establishes one's identity. He also points out that the "earning a living" motivation has somehow gotten twisted into earning more and more and more to feed our consumerism urge.

"Emo, ergo sum - I shop therefore I am," he quips.

In a subsequent book, "The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations," Gini notes that Americans work more hours per week than anyone, even the Japanese. Often our idea of a vacation is to go somewhere else and work really hard at seeing and experiencing all that the new place has to offer.

Gini suggests that as a culture we need to embrace the concept of the Sabbath, a real day of rest and reflection. He says leisure time should be not so planned, but reflective - even spiritual - offering one the opportunity to grow as a person and to relate to others. My favorite book on this concept is, "Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives," by Wayne Muller.

Obviously, if I am going to break my habit of doing in favor of rest and reflection, I am going to have to work at it. Sounds like another paradox.

Listen to my podcast interview with Al Gini at Hear our discussion about the role of humor in our lives and whether Gini thinks the current recession will help those out of work to learn a new approach to work and leisure.

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