Once you finish reading this review, it will be a matter of moments before you receive a new directive from the culture of work. If that statement sounds Orwellian, but also feels true, Rest Is Resistance will be a useful read.
The directive may come as you encounter marketing that sells you a vacation, a meal, or a commodity on the basis that you “deserve it” because you “work hard.”
You may hear a colleague or classmate complain about how little sleep they got meeting a deadline, and discern a note of pride in their utter exhaustion.
Or the directive may be your own voice, the one that has convinced you not to pursue a passion because it’s “not practical” and “you can’t make a living doing that.”
The directives from the culture of work come from outside and inside; we have internalized them as employees of the Capitalism & White Supremacy corporation, founded four centuries ago as the Big Lie but doing business as The Truth. We no more hear or see the directives than we feel the earth spinning. They are natural law. They are what we take for granted.
We get no rest from these messages, and therefore we get no real rest, and therefore we desperately need The Nap Ministry and Rest Is Resistance, A Manifesto. In this book, variously described as “a prayer” and a “field guide,” Tricia Hersey lays out the framework of the movement against “grind culture.”
The Nap Ministry, which Hersey founded in 2016, curates Collective Napping Experiences, and Hersey’s manifesto aims to inspire more people to see rest as a birthright, as the real natural law, and as a form of resistance. Hersey’s hope is to inspire us to revere our bodies as divine, not as machines to be serviced for productivity — and to then act, or rather rest and dream, accordingly.
Hersey’s calling as The Nap Bishop arose during her years at seminary, but her grounding is deep and ancient, encompassing: the womanist theology of Emily Townes, Alice Walker, and Monica Coleman; the historical accounts of enslaved Africans who escaped plantations or resisted dehumanization through rest and community care; and the ancestral experiences she feels in her body, from the wisdom of her grandmother, who taught her to rest her eyes for 30-seconds at a time, to the trauma of her overworked and unpaid Greats- and Grands-: “This book is a testimony and a testament of my refusal to donate my body to a system that still owes a debt to my ancestors for the theft of their labor and DreamSpace.”
The movement she describes in the book centers blackness because “a legacy of exhaustion specifically resides in the bodies of those who have melanated skin.” Even the somewhat well-intentioned messages of respectability politics are rooted in the antiblackness of grind culture: “You must work 10 times harder than white people to survive and reach success in life.”
However, Rest Is Resistance serves everyone’s liberation. In the tradition of Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King, Hersey implores us to remember that no one is free when anyone is unfree: "Black Liberation is a balm for all humanity and this message is for all those suffering from the ways of white supremacy and capitalism. Everyone on the planet, including the planet itself, is indeed suffering from these two systems.” Any claim to superiority – over other beings or over the earth – comes from a place of spiritual deficiency.
Hersey reminds us that grind culture’s unholy creed is that the body is a machine, and that its central practice is the “machine-level pace of labor,” which equates worth with work and systematically disconnects us from the needs of our bodies.
As a powerful counter, the Nap Bishop’s holy (and unassailable) creed is that the body is divine, and her central spiritual practice is rest, which reconnects us to our humanness: “Resting our bodies and minds is a form of reverence. When we honor our bodies via rest we are connecting to the deepest parts of ourselves. We are freedom-making.”
Rest, not work, is the portal to a sense of peace and worth, to reverence and reverie. When we rest, we can dream. One of Hersey’s compelling questions is, “What stories are we holding deep inside that are untold . . . because we are too exhausted?”
The evocative nature of that question is emblematic of the book’s contribution to spirituality and practice. The character of the writing itself resists the categorizations that help the Corporation market products. While she lays out a basic framework — Rest! Dream! Resist! Imagine! — the book is no step-by-step guide to the Rest Revolution. Her approach is not exhaustive, and given the topic, that’s likely intentional. Rather, it is aphoristic, aspirational, and inspirational. She finds her way through the chapters led by her intuition, her exploratory spirit, and her desire to ask profound questions and offer liberatory affirmations.
All of those choices evince a respect for each reader’s uniqueness. While some readers might want more — and more specific — prescriptions, Hersey shies away on the assumption that being prescriptive always closes some opportunities. Her aim is expansion, and her question for the reader is, What will you do with what you now know? How will you rest? How will you make space for the practice of daydreaming? What alternatives to grind culture will you imagine?
Nonetheless, she does name some specific practices and offer critiques of what absolutely cannot guide us as we seek the liberation of rest. For instance, Hersey cautions us away from the reliance on social media, even for a sense of connection; while meaningful sometimes, technological connection also comes with exhausting directives to produce. (Post! Like! Tag! Share! Comment! Follow!)
She also bravely (and rightly) aims a sharp critique at academia as “one of the main sites of grind culture.” Schools normalize “stress, anxiety, overloaded curriculum, and pressure,” which might be considered a national health risk since these are “particularly toxic for young children and young adults who are still developing a sense of self,” while being consistently “exposed to the lie that their worth is determined by how much they can accomplish . . . and rewarded when they push their bodies to the limit to do well in classes.” Hersey’s spiritual perspective on the very materialistic business of achievement culture is a necessary corrective and could yield better mental health in addition to more innovation. Imagine a future where it informs education policy and discourse!
Hersey does offer some specific spiritual practices. There is, for instance, this lovely gem: “We must be focused on knowing that our bodies and our worth are not connected to how many things we can check off a list. You can begin to create a ‘Not-To-Do List’ as you gain the energy to maintain healthy boundaries.”
We suggest starting that list right now as part of the rest of reading this article. This review will be ending in four sentences, but your rest does not need to. Keep going! Keep resisting! The directives of grind culture will try to reclaim you. If you need reinforcement, order the book, and as you wait for it, practice adding to your “Not-To-Do List.”