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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Real Work

In what has become a well known poem, Marge Piercy writes:

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
Has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
But you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
And a person for work that is real. 
"To be of use", from Circles on the Water

“Real work” can take many different forms. Like the pitcher that cries for water, we are made for meaningful work, not to be put up on a museum shelf.  Sometimes real work is teaching. Sometimes it is managing.  Sometimes it is volunteering  Sometimes it is parenting.  And sometimes real work means participating in your own rescue.

I have been gripped by the plight of the trapped miners in Chile. Psychologists tell us that, along with food and notes from above, these men need real work.   They will emerge from this disaster more whole if they can be “partners in their rescue.” Clearing rock and rubble become real work if it leads to your liberation. This is the opposite of being a pitcher sitting on a museum shelf.  It is scratching and clawing for your very survival.

 What does “real work” look like at this stage in your life? How might participating in your own liberation be a part of it?

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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  1. Since the deaths of my son and husband in the past 18 months I have become aware of my own dying process as a result. There are new persons now to engage with in my life; thus I am dying to the self that was created within those relationships and giving birth to a new self in these new relationships. That is my "soul" work, if you will.
    The more earthly work is that of purging items that no longer are of use to me since those deaths. This physical work is also a part of the spiritual work as I reflect on past letters, cards, writings.
    The miners in Chile will also not be the same persons they were when they emerge from this experience.

  2. This was the struggle my dad had when he was dying -- "what good was he doing, why was he still living". Now I find this is a problem in my life as I'm trying to learn what to do in retirement -- I want what I do to be worth something. I suspect that people have a variety of responses to what is worthwhile. I'm currently trying to find my own answer to that so I can understand what the miners are going through.

    I also know a church that has taken in an African family that has spent years in a refuge camp. The refugees have no sense of time or urgency to get things done -- people working with them have come to realize that this family has faced years where they had no purpose except to stay together; that every day they woke up being hungry and every night they went to bed being hungry; that every day was the same without any meaningful purpose. Now they are trying to adjust to living in a rushed, time-centered society, driven society. Imagine trying to do that!

  3. Reading the comments above, I wanted to share our latest resource for people 60 and above. Looking Back and Giving Forward: Finding Common Ground for Positive Aging engages you to develop a compelling vision of what it means to age in a positive way grounded in your faith. Your vision becomes a living legacy that contributes to making the world better for you, your grandchildren, and future generations. You will see yourself as a sage, listen to your life, learn from life's challenges, make room for your gifts and strengths, and you will build your living legacy and find ways to support it.
    All the best as you journey into your next life transition.

  4. A metaphor that has been informing my life recently is the act of creation. The poet who gave us the Genesis story of creation tells us that God created order out of chaos. And I am continually re-creating order out of chaos. Every night I go through the house putting books back on the shelves, dirty dishes back in the sink, dirty clothes in the laundry. And every day the process of living turns my order back into chaos.

  5. Great image. On the 7th day do you rest?