Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, May 6, 2011

Conversations with Pat 2

Pat Bishop says that "real work is self-directed, independent activity, conducted alone or in concert with others, in the service of community need and community wholeness." In other words, it's more than a "job" with the objective of the "pay day" which allows us to be consumers in an increasingly distorted and gluttonous economic system.

What is work?

Peter Minshall used to say "my work is my prayer." Not that he was religious, but what he purported to do in his life was (quoting Federico Garcia Lorca) "drawn from the well of the people," offered back "in a cup of beauty so that they may drink - and in drinking understand themselves."

For most of us, the reality is neither as poetic as Minshall nor as pristine as Bishop. Truth often lies somewhere else beyond the gloss of literature or art. Notice that neither mentions the need for survival, sustainability, satisfaction or self-fulfilment though one suspects that those are the intended by-products. Many of us find ourselves doing many things in order to make a living, not all of it creative, indeed much of it in service of something else that accrues from the "payday."

Some of my most intense and satisfying work was  in the newspaper and for the Carnival magazine. Long hours - observing, interviewing, channeling the society - for a few inches of type! These were products of collective work, in service of community need and wholeness, regardless of whether the community cared or not! But it was work that barely kept my growing family in food, entertainment, gas bills or higher education. My father who had single-handedly built a business as a farmer, without the support of an education system, fared far better. It was entirely his legacy that allowed me to own a house of my own; and to appreciate the "work" that others do to feed the people.

So yes, what of work? The work that I do now sends my children to university in other parts of the world, and I daresay supports the community at a higher level. In the perverse way of the "pay day," this work has assured survival and has been frequently frustrating, occasionally fulfilling and maybe sustainable.

The challenge for me, hopefully not too little nor too late, continues to be (as John Fowles ends his treatise, The Aristos): "To accept one's limited freedom, to accept one's isolation, to accept this responsibility, to learn one's particular powers, and then with them to humanize the whole; that is the best for this situation."

1 comment:

  1. The Muslims say work is worship, which lets me out of the going to church loop. Every time I sit down with my clay, I am communing with Mother Earth and tapping into the stream of universal subconscious where we can listen to the her heart beat and gain wisdom. Have you read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? She puts forward a beautiful argument for work as it pertains to feeding ourselves.