PREPENT DAY 16
Elul 16 5775 – August 31 2015
Thus sang Mary Poppins:
“With every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun – and – snap – the job’s a game! And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake…”
I thought of Mary this morning, and this song that I grew up with, and very much return to every once in a while and even had the words printed over my desk once, because it’s Monday morning and while still in bed I caught myself sighing about the day ahead and catching the sigh, and respecting it, but deciding to nip it in the bud.
We all find ways to work, more or less meaningful and well paying, engaging and important, fulfilling or frustrating. And all these aspects and more become part of what we do on this day or another. Even those of us not officially working now – unemployed, retired or taking a year or five off – we have things to do and places to be and tasks to complete that are not necessarily about our own needs but about a way of being helpful in the greater scheme of things. And sometimes we just don’t want to get up in the morning and do whatever it is we are supposed to do today. And sometimes that happens all too often.
Take Jonah, for instance, the guy whose job it is to go wake up a nation that is lost in greed. This is his vocation. But he doesn’t want to do it so he boards a ship and goes to sleep inside its belly as far as possible from what he is supposed to do. By the time the fish swims by to swallow Jonah whole for three whole days of transformation the reluctant worker gets the message. After being vomited on shore he heeds the call, completes his mission, saves a city from ruin by the power of his words.
Prophets or nannies, janitors or judges, what we do for work and how we go about it are ways of building our character and enabling us to be more present and more helpful in the world. Yes, we often do work for the compensation, but if it is just the money we after we will soon lose motivation and find it harder and harder to get up in the morning with a smile and a reason to live. Sometimes, like Jonah, it seems that we don’t choose the work and tasks on our to-do list but we can always find a way, like Mary sings, to dig deeper and find out what about this or that task has something profound to teach me and a way to help me grow.
Adam Smith, the father of industrial capitalism, wrote in 1776 “It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can.” This is how we got the modern workplace – with a minimum focus on wellbeing and maximum on productivity, paycheck and out the door. Smith is quoted in a Rethinking Work – a compelling article published in the New York Times yesterday. It starts off with the recent study that shows 90% of workers around the world ‘spending half their waking lives doing things that they don’t really want to do in places they don’t particularly want to be.’
The shift, suggests the writer, a professor of psychology, is in refuting Smith’s prediction and finding ways for each of us to enjoy leisure – but see the meaning and the value in the work we do no matter what and not just about the wages. It took a whale to shake up Jonah and it takes Mary Poppins to remind me of this especially on Mondays.
I am blessed to have chosen the work that I am doing in the world. And yet, a lot of tasks that fall my way come with a sigh. And it is the high holy season and a lot of tasks are piling up… But that, again, is my choice as well. and I want to choose to do it with a smile, not a sigh, and be part of the solution, less the problem.
On this day 16 of Prepent , the very end of August, 24 days to go until we stand together on the day in which we tell the tale of Jonah, I will whistle Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go! all the way to the office.
What aspects of your work life can you examine, work on, improve today?
Or are you so solidly among the 90% that it’s seriously time to rethink what and where you are working before a big fish comes your way?
‘Half of our waking lives is a terrible thing to waste.’
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