Sunday, October 19, 2014

physics of wisdom & chemistry of understanding

Amazing to see people are lauded and noticed for their joy, enthusiasm and dedication to their work.
--A Notre Dame staff member

There is a Dove chocolate wrapper that I keep coming back to, because it is really the wisest Dove chocolate wrapper that ever did exist (never did I think I would be saying that wisdom is to be found on the tinfoil covering of a little square of chocolate, but it's true. Wisdom is found in the unlikeliest places).
It says: Love what you do.
Which I love, because it is the inverse statement of the world's wisdom which is: do what you love.
In this industrial age, it is so difficult to work the way that our ancestors worked.
To work with our hands and our heads and our hearts all together: to toil lovingly over a carpentry project, because not only will it yield someone a dining room table, but it will also express our unique vision of the world, and will also put food on the table for our children.
For some reason, that very simple and beautiful sacrament of work is noticeably absent in our office jobs.
Which is, of course, frustrating. But, the essence of being human is to be frustrated in some way, and then, somehow, to deal with it. To learn to grow in spite of the many factors that retard our growth. If we were all able to live as we wished, with no obstacle in the way, think of how little we would grow and stretch and die to ourselves and be reborn with a little bit larger hearts and a little bit stronger minds. (How much more pleasant life would be, if we were never frustrated, but never mind that. We'd be too small-minded to enjoy it.)

“How fine it would be, Agathon,” he said, “if wisdom were a sort of thing that could flow out of the one of us who is fuller into him who is emptier, by our mere contact with each other, as water will flow through wool"
--Plato's Symposium

As I said, it seems to me that there are too many professions, careers, or positions that are divorced from this ideal of work that so many early twentieth century writers espoused: John Paul II, Dorothy Sayers, Caryll Houselander,  Leo XIII. All these wise and witty souls describe human work as a marvelous and glorious undertaking that unites the human to the particular aspect of her soul which is most divine: her creativity. The ability to create, to make, to form, to shape is the facet of our being that we share with our Creator. And they bemoan the current economic systems that create so many jobs that are not really work in its fullest and most dignified sense. This dignified and meaningful work is one of the losses sustained during the industrial revolution.
But, still, there is something to be gained in even the smallest and meanest of tasks.
Our spiritual lives are not something divorced from the run-of-the-mill work we do each workday. Our spiritual lives are our work day.
If we believe that small things can be done with great love, then each day presents and opportunity to expand our love as we do each small thing with a little bit more love than before.
We can love our work, because, no matter what it is, it is Christ's work.
In her beautiful meditation on Mary, The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander articulates why Mary is the model of all Christian vocation. Because Mary's task was purely this: to bear Christ into the world.
And her task is, fundamentally, all our tasks. Whatever shape our daily vocation takes, at its heart is this motivating fire: to bear Christ into the world by our walking, our reading, our mundane work, our conversation, our Microsoft Xcel spreadsheets, our brushing our teeth, and our commute on the subway.
It is foolishness, according to the world, to believe that all these daily actions can truly "matter", yet we would be fools to live as if they don't.
When we love what we do, we bring Christ into the little corners of the world where otherwise He would not be.

   "Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose to our lives, that going day after day for years to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness. But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us, Christ would not be there. If our being there means that Christ is there, that alone makes it worthwhile." --Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God 

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