Work As Love

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I was re-reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran tonight. Wikipedia tells me Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu. There are many excellent passages in this book, but here is one of my favorites. He expresses much the same idea I was going for in my post The Way of Soup, but so much more compactly and beautifully.

And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,

And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,

And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,

And all work is empty save when there is love;

And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God. And what is it to work with love?

It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,

And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil. And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”

But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;

And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.

And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

You know the cliche: “Do what you love…” It is often misunderstood but Gibran clearly understood the truth this phrase can reveal:

Somewhere in your heart and mind, body and soul, is the capacity for some kind of work that you can do with love. As love, in fact.

If at all possible…Do that.

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One Response to Work As Love

  1. Steve Kenski says:

    I remember this passage well. Gibran – a favorite of mine, and a book that seemed to be one of the few things I could turn to in times of sadness or depression for comfort and relief, probably so much so, since he applied that wisdom personally to his own works and writings. When I worked construction out just of high school, I remember one particularly harsh day, exhausted and covered in sweat and mortar, saying how much I hated the work…then I reflected on that passage and realized the waste in doing something everyday in disgust. And I figured I had better find a way to “love what I do” until I can find a way to “do what I love.” The day’s toil seemed to go by more quickly, and at the end of the day it felt good to take pride in work well done – to stand back and see something good being built. Afterwards, I would look around day after day, and see others working harder to avoid work than they did doing work, cursing, complaining and dreading the passing minutes of every day.

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