“Labor Day is an American Federal Holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 3 in 2012) that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.” However I have been reflecting on the meaning, purpose, and spirituality of work. At this time in the United States there has been a rise in the jobless levels over the past three months with a percentage of 8.3 listing for the overall country. These are very hard times. So what can I say about WORK that would lighten the minds and hearts of readers? So I simply collected a number of quotes, readings, stories, and links that may cause readers to ponder their own lives and notice how to be about one’s “inner work” during this time of uncertainty. There has to be many learnings and great wisdom here!
• Golda Meir, a former prime minister of Israel, once visited the Vatican. She was welcomed by the Swiss Guard, colorful banners, music and procession. In awe, she asked, “All this for the daughter of a carpenter?” The response came quickly, “Around here, we think pretty highly of carpenters.”
• As the classical philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “The color of one’s thought dyes one’s world.” How can we learn to see work as a productive outlet, a means of support and God’s gift?
• “We share responsibility for creating the external world by projecting either a spirit of light or a spirit of shadow on that which is other than us. We project either a spirit of hope or a spirit of despair...We have a choice about what we are going to project, and in that choice we help create the world that is. A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to project on other people his/her shadow, or his/her light. A leader must take special responsibility for what's going on inside his/her own self, inside his/her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.” (Conger 24-25).
• “For our work to be spiritually enriching it must be personally satisfying. It is tempting to think that those whose jobs are related to their life’s passion, for example, actors, athletes, or artists, can more easily find satisfaction in what they do, but job satisfaction is as much a matter of perspective, meaning, and relationship as it is the use of our talents. We do not have to enjoy the tasks that our jobs entail in order to be enlivened by doing them. What is important is that we are open to the bigger picture wherein we sense that we are a piece of a puzzle and that what we do fits into and contributes to the whole.” (The God Instinct by Tom Stella)
• “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” (Unknown)
• “You can tell more about a monk by the way he uses a broom than by anything he says.” (Thomas Merton)
Work by Yanki Tauber
Why must everything be so difficult? Couldn't G-d have designed our lives so that we wouldn't need to encounter disappointments, challenges and toil every step of the way?
This must be one of the oldest questions ever asked. The answer--that an "easy" life would also be a meaningless life--is probably just as old. And so is the parable told to illustrate the point:
A wealthy nobleman was once touring his estate and came upon a peasant pitching hay. The nobleman was fascinated by the sight: flowing motions of the peasant's arms and shoulders and the graceful sweep of the pitchfork through the air. He so greatly enjoyed the spectacle that he struck a deal with the peasant: he would give him a gold coin every day if the peasant agreed to come to the mansion and display his hay-pitching technique in the nobleman's drawing room. The next day, the peasant arrived at the mansion, hardly concealing his glee at his new line of "work." After swinging his empty pitchfork for an hour, he collected his gold coin--many times his usual reward for a week of backbreaking labor. But by the following day, his enthusiasm had somewhat waned. Before the week was out, he announced that he was quitting his commission.
"I don't understand," puzzled the nobleman. "Why would you rather swing heavy loads outdoors in the winter cold and the summer heat, when you can perform an effortless task in the comfort of my home and earn many times your usual wages?" "But master," said the man, "I'm not doing anything..."