“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” Ecclesiastes 3:9-14
I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?” Ecclesiastes 3:18-22
I am officially joining the work force on Monday. I got the job! Goodbye to typing up in the sun, hello to my own cubicle. Goodbye to sporadic work and sporadic pay, and to staying in sweats all day long, hello to set work hours and a reliable check, and to pantyhose and blouses.
Hello to working and feeling like I’m accomplishing something.
I was reading the bible today, and I fell across the above scripture. And it just called to me. Right now I am excited about this job. But, as with every worker, jobs can feel like a burden. And I know I will experience this as I fall into my routine. But in life, the way to live is to do everything with meaning. Our whole lives are an act of worship to God. And work is no exeption. It is better to accept our work as a part of life, to see that being human does not afford us the right to be too good for work. If we do work because we HAVE to, we end up HATING it, dreading work, and run the great risk of putting forth our poorest efforts. But if we put forth our best efforts, and remembering WHY we are doing our best, we are honoring God.
Thich Naht Hanh, one of many spiritual leaders whose works I love reading to learn from, puts it in this way (I have replaced “Buddha” with “Jesus” so that the point is not construed:
Bathing a Newborn “Jesus”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
To my mind, the idea that doing the dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you are not doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in warm water, it really is not so bad. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to go and have a cup of tea, the time will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles! Each bowl I wash, each poem I compose, each time I invite a bell to sound is a miracle, each has exactly the same value. One day, while washing a bowl, I felt that my movements were as sacred and respectful as bathing a newborn Jesus. If he were to read this, that newborn Jesus would certainly be happy for me, and not at all insulted at being compared with a bowl.
Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.
If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of drinking the tea joyfully. With the cup in my hands I will be thinking about what to do next, and the fragrance and the flavor of the tea, together with the pleasure of drinking it, will be lost. I will always be dragged into the future, never able to live in the present moment.”
May I always remember to present each motion of my life as a gift to God! If we all did this, our life of worship could create betterment in our lives, in those things that threaten to be mundane. And it will spread like wildfire to those around us, and to those around them. And so on. May I bring that to my new job, and to all the changes that are going on in my life. May I live in this moment, savoring it for all its worth, rather than living for many tomorrows from now when “life will be easier”. The miracle is NOW. Praise God!