"I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun," said Thomas Edison. "Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination," writes Gretchen Rubin in a blog post. Interesting and challenging – and a great reason for sharing some thoughts on work. Some thoughts on how to fill the bread tin.
I feel that the cleverness of the mythological Adam&Eve story is a great start to learn how not to be deceived ever. And this should not only apply to an encounter with talking snakes, it could also apply to how to deal with the question: Will there ever be enough bread in the bread tin?
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…" I read in the Adam&Eve story. This curse implies fruitless toil for Adam, a constant round, a circular life – and looked at it through Adam's eyes it presents a closed circle from which is no escape. Thorns and thistles grow despite all the efforts – and what makes things worse is that Adam has no clue about unselfishness. He only toils for himself… Poor guy!
A different story is told by Jesus, our wise friend and companion, who is the best coach I can imagine: His story is about a man sowing good seed in his field, dealing with an enemy who comes at night and tries to compromise the harvest by sowing tares. This man instructs his assistants on what to do with the tares and the wheat – and the harvest is feeding everybody.
Field work again, no plowing this time, just sowing – and harvesting and filling the bread tin. Here the tares appear only shortly and are clearly marked – “an enemy has done this”, while Adam toils and yields the thorns and thistles from the very start. Also, Adam is working because he is kicked out and forced to work, while this wise and prudent farmer is evidently the owner of the field – and a certain lightness accompanies his work. I always see in front of me a painting by Vincent van Gogh – a man sowing seed in the glowing sunshine. What is sweat? What’s a charley horse? Also, the fruit is in abundance, the barn indicates supply for many and for many days to come. The first account mentions only one individual and doesn't imply a provision of prospective days.
Last, but not least: In the first account loneliness is hovering, whereas the second is filled with people, a network of qualities. In explaining this parable Jesus says later on, that the angels are the reapers – I know that this is a long stretch for those of you who have a certain distance from religion and the Bible. The angels, to me, symbolize that the lightness of being is our natural habitat and that community – being and working together – is what we are meant to be. The whole story conveys something about the lightheartedness of the kingdom of heaven, "the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme" (Mary Baker Eddy).
What can we learn from both stories? How can you approach work – be it donkeywork, a research project, a pile of laundry, a white-collar occupation, assigned jobs, papers to write, or simply something that must be done?
Find an aspect of your task ahead which truly feeds you. Most often this will not be the paycheck in the end but qualities which you express. Sometimes resilience and stoic patience will already do.
See how your work blesses others and make it a point to work together and to lighten the burdens for everyone you meet. A little unselfishness to start with.
Own the work – it doesn’t matter how far away from owning a company you are or what kind of an entrepreneur you want to be.
Detach your work from the money question – even if the money question is the reason. This is important because of an observation from Anna-Zoë Herr, writing: “Isn’t work a result of expressing Life rather then a cause for it?”
Finally: Take a moment to think what kind of wheat you are sowing and harvesting and what kind of bread you are making from it. It will feed you – and as soon as it is on the table it is yours to share.
(Thank you Kelly Byquist and Josh Kenworthy for editing!)
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
I support the UN Refuge Agency. Want to join me?