When we are children we play. Sometimes children play at work. A child may dig in the earth or push a plastic lawn mower, wash imaginary food from toy dishes with imaginary water, or build things from blocks just to take them apart again. The activity is not to fix something that is wrong or to build something to last. It is play work done for the joy of the activity and the learning to do it.
Later, we may work because our parents demand it. The dishes are washed or the lawn is mowed, because we are told to do it. The task may be meaningless to us; we may do it resentfully. Perhaps we comply to avoid trouble. Maybe we do the work for some reward.
With a little more maturity our work becomes purposeful. We work to achieve some result. The dishes are dirty, so we clean them to have clean dishes. The grass is long, so we mow it to have a nice lawn. If we are lucky, when we are adults we find employment that is purposeful. Maybe we work to raise a family. Maybe we work to accomplish some social goal. It feels good to be useful and to see progress from our labor.
Unfortunately, for many people, work never becomes more than a means to an end. The work is strictly to get money to buy things, and the act of work is empty of value to the worker. When work has only this secondary, monetary meaning it becomes routine, boring, and even depressing.
If we work only for the money, we have a problem, because our work may seem empty. If we work only for the results of our work we have a problem, because results are often unpredictable.
If we can focus on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work, we can enjoy it for what it is, regardless of the compensation, regardless of the outcome. This is true of work in the physical world, and it is true in the realm of spiritual work. The truly virtuous person does not do good works and spiritual practices to get into heaven. They do what is right, because it is right.
Ask yourself:Then ask yourself:
- Why do I work?
- What value is in my work and the fruits of my labor?
- Is there merit in what I do for a living?
- Who benefits from my work?
- Do I benefit from this work?
- Is anyone harmed by what I do?
- Is this the right work for me?
- Does it support my values?
- Does it use my talents and skills?
- How often do I enjoy my work?
- What work do I do for my spirit?
- What is my motivation for my good works, my spiritual practices?
- How can I more fully align my earthly work with my spiritual goals?
© 1998-2002 Tom Barrett