The first case of karōshi was reported in Japan in 1969 and cases have been on the rise steadily since. Numbers are difficult to find, but in the last decade 120 to 160 families per year have been financially compensated for karōshi. It is likely that many more go un-compensated; the actual figure may well be much higher. The Japanese word Karōshi translates to ‘death by overwork’.
Literally, people dropping dead at work due the stress of overwork.
Hiroko Uchino’s husband, Kenichi, a third-generation Toyota employee, was a victim of karoshi when he died in 2002 at the age of 30. He collapsed at 4am at work, having put in more than 80 hours of overtime each month for six months before his death. “The moment when I am happiest is when I can sleep”, Mr Uchino told his wife the week of his death. He left two children, aged one and three.
How did we get here? What insecurities drive us to such extremes?
“To get home just one day a week early enough to see my wife and kids before they go to bed.” This was a friend’s 2016 New Year’s resolution.
Modern life is so full, always on, always connected, always busy: there’s work, TV, radio, internet, 24hr news channels, Netflix box sets, text messages, mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Amazon, Ebay, electric lights that eliminate the dark and extend the day infinitely, so we can go shopping in Tesco at 3am…
No wonder we’re all stressed out and anxious.
Here at Bessels Green Baptist Church we’ve started 2016 thinking again about our Vision, which begins ‘Living like Jesus’. We’re told that Jesus frequently took himself away to find solitude and pray. I believe we should follow his example and do the same. We were not created for the madness of modern life; we were created for relationship.
So why not unplug for a while? Take a step back? Slow down? To do so is a revolutionary, counter-cultural act. To be happy with our own existence. To find contentment in the simple things. To still the noise long enough to become aware of the divine God who sustains all things.
This is a spiritual truth we have forgotten and badly need to rediscover and relearn.
It takes practise, try starting with a few minutes per day. Find a place away from distractions and just stop, breathe and listen – you’ll be surprised how helpful just a few minutes of prayer like this can be. Prayer that is about ‘being with God’ and listening, rather than about ‘talking to God’. Both are right, helpful and have their place. But in a mad world of constant busyness, activity and ‘doing’, just a few minutes each day simply ‘being’ can be a revolutionary action – why not give it a try?
Grace and peace,