Dec 6, 2007

Our Truest Life...

"Our Truest life is when we are in dreams awake." -Henry David Thoreau

There was a time in my life when I believed that the epitome of our existence was absolute leisure. I thought that hard work was just a means to an end. The harder I worked now, the better I could relax in the future. Then, as the future became the present, I was confused, The work never seemed to end. In fact it got harder and there was significantly more of it. This may sound stupid, but I was severely depressed by the facts I found. The work would never really end.
I have been coming to terms with this realization ever since. Lately, I've been finding new enjoyment in hard work. It feels weird to say this, but I'm actually starting to enjoy working around the house. Okay, a little background might help...I grew up in Suburban New Jersey. My knowledge of "working around the house" was limited to mowing the lawn (on a riding mower, with my Walkman on; probably playing White Lion or Bon Jovi) or shoveling snow. That was about it.
Now before I have to turn in my "man card" I have to tell you that I'm pretty handy. I can do almost anything that a house would need: electrical, basic plumbing, drywall, painting, you name it. But, I have NEVER enjoyed any of it. Now, we own a home in the mountains. There are trees to trim and even (grunts like the guy on "Home Improvement") cut down with a chain saw. There are enormous amounts of brush, pine needles, and leaves to get rid of, usually with fire (laughs like Beavis, "Yeah, fire, heh heh!") There are culverts to clear, holes to dig, bugs to kill, skunks to get rid of, bears that rip are garbage cans to shreds (maybe a slight exaggeration, although we actually did have a problem bear until I chased him off with my Jeep...a long story.). There is a lot to do and until recently, I have been completely unwilling and angry about having to do it.
The past few months have been a little tight financially and we've spent a lot more time than usual at home. Bored and sick of looking like the town loser, I began working on the yard and found myself passing time quickly. But, the thing about it really cleared my mind. Okay, here's where that Thoreau quote at the top comes in.
After I first realized that I was always going to have work, I began to think that I had to go for the next best thing, the dream job. A vocation where I was doing something I loved all the time. The problem was/is that I don't love to do the same things all the time. But, I think that Mr. Thoreau might have been saying that when our work allows us to dream, we have struck gold. When he left for Walden pond, there was no shortage of work, but in that isolation he found a peace that was very different from leisure. I had not experienced it until recently. However, I am beginning to understand what he meant.
When I spend a Saturday working hard out in the yard, or at the park, or wherever, it does not take very long for my mind to wander. Soon I am dreaming of what could be or what I could make out of those branches, or how beautiful the sky is going to be at sunset. Suddenly, my mind is wrapped around things that are real and living, in a world of possibility and splendor; a world where status, money, or power don't make a lick of difference. That is a true life.

Side Note: Many of you have asked us to check out a few books, we haven't been keeping up with our reading list as well as we like, but someone (I cannot remember who) suggested Wendell Berry's books. I'm just starting to read "What are People for?" It is pretty amazing, so...look for the first Changing Rhythm Book review in the next few weeks. Thanks for all the ideas an support!


Anonymous said...

I SO know what you mean about resenting work. This is the attitude that I witnessed growing up, and that's not a good one to have when you live in a 1790's farmhouse with no money to pay anyone else to do it! I am still on a journey to let the knowledge that work is life and therefore a gift in it's own right sink into my psyche. For now, I spend a lot of my work time cheering myself on. I was really struck by a passage in Lamentations once that said that good work is God's gift to us. When I am able to see God's creative force in the world as "work", then I am more able to enter into work as a "co-creator" with God, caring for and stewarding creation.

On another note, I'm SO glad to hear that you're reading Wendell Berry. He is probably the one who has had the greatest influence on my husband and I and how we see Christian vocation and life in general. I would HIGHLY recommend Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community after What are People For.

Happy reading and working, and thanks as always for a thought provoking post!

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Isle Dance said...

I just found this blog and love it! Thanks for sharing all that you're experiencing. It's a wonderful journey.