Sunday, August 17, 2008

Creativity for the Love of Others

"Work is the gracious expression of creative energy in the service of others." -Dorothy Sayers

Recently, I was listening to a speaker talking about “work”. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently as I’ve been looking for some type of employment. One of the things that I’ve thought a lot about are three things that seem to be central to what it is that motivates me in life. These three things are creativity, celebration, and community.

In the midst of my sometimes turbulent feelings about finding work I’ve struggled to understand what to do with the feelings of uselessness that come with being unemployed. I think that there is something about the way society is structured in North America that makes unemployment feel that much more alienating. We live in isolation and limited finances make it very difficult to contribute our voluntary work and energy to the community when we are not earning an income at the same time.

I think of some of my friends in Central America who even though they don’t have paying jobs are able to invest their time in worthwhile activities that build up their communities and contribute to the greater good of society. (It is possible because they live and work in the same place and the cost of basic things like transportation are less.) They work hard and the good work well done is the reward not the money (that they don’t make) or the identity that could come along with earning money. It seems like because of the way that society is structured; it is easier to do worthwhile work without being as isolated by unemployment.

I really believe that I want a job, not to make money (even though that is necessary) or to have an identity but to get to use my creative energy to do good work for the good of others. When thinking about the motivations we have for work Paul’s words are interesting:
“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers… But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one." 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
The important part of those words is not the part that says, “be dependent on no one” (which is the part I beat myself up for all the time) but, “you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” Therefore, work ought to flow out of loving one another.

So, flowing out of love for others, it is good to do work that fits who I am and benefits others. Seeking to do something creative that makes me feel alive and helps others really is a good guide for this job search. It is challenging when you feel like you’re interested in so many different things but, ultimately I believe it is good to be passionate about lots of things. I hope that I will find work that I will be passionate about doing and also brings more peace and justice in the world. I want to do something that I will feel the pleasure of working hard at because it is good and doing good for others. It is difficult when you are trying to live… to just live and also find what you live to do at the same time.

This is a wonderful quote by Dorthy Sayers who wrote an essay called “Why Work?”:
“[We should take] the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work–our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure–and [make] that the standard of all our judgments about things and people…
It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God… We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?’ but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?” Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos, “Why Work?”
I like this a lot. I want to approach my work in the way that I approach the things I do for pleasure. I also want to see my work in the way that Sayers defines it, "Work is the gracious expression of creative energy in the service of others." So, as I look for those things that interest me, those creative outlets that excite me, and the ways that I can help and serve others in the process to create a more peaceful and just society I will look to see if it will exercise my talents to the utmost.

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke