I’d like to elaborate on last week’s PBP post on finding delight while doing the Work, because I feel it’s worth taking the time. Please read with the understanding that everything here is an opinion, and your thoughts may differ from mine. Diversity is good. :)
One’s Work is fiercely, deeply personal. Last Friday, I gave the example of art and/or spirituality being the Work, but it can be anything. Animal rescue. Charity work. Political campaigning. Education. Reviving a dead language. Model vehicles. Fashion design. Microbrewing. Origami. Blacksmithing. Travel. Adopting a child. Computer engineering.
The Work does not have to be selfless to be vital to one’s happiness and fulfillment, though it often positively affects others to some extent. The Work does not have to be huge, thick with morals, and/or a lifelong project. It is simply the thing(s) that one feels one must do in order to be fully grounded in oneself and one’s perceived purpose(s).
Because it is so variable and so subjective, the Work is one’s own. There can be no comparison, no judgment, no social weight. The Work is the height of individuality—in doing it, the individual is the most them that they can be. We do not do our Work because we “should” or at the commands or demands of other people. We do the Work for ourselves, and for the sake of the Work.
The most important characteristic of the Work is its suitability to its person. I have an enormous respect for people engaged in hands-on charity work, and I highly value their contributions to our society and to the people they help, but charity is not my Work. If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, I am doing a good thing, but I must also do my Work if I am to feel well-balanced and soul-sated. The Work is not a replacement for good acts in the world, nor are good acts to be mistaken for a person’s particular Work.
I grew up in a culture in which I do not currently live, so I can say with moderate confidence that doing the Work is not really a consistent concept across geographic and economic regions. Being able to pursue one’s own deepest passions and interests is a privilege usually only found where time or money can be spared from the task of surviving each day. In the culture in which I was raised, doing work was simply getting a job done efficiently and well. I take pride and satisfaction in that, but it’s not the deep satiation that I get from doing my Work. It’s important to acknowledge the privilege of being able to find and do one’s Work; if you can, be grateful for the opportunity that so many lack.
Many say that it’s our duty to do our Work, be it artistic or spiritual or otherwise. While I hesitate to put the weight of such obligation on it, I understand the emotion behind the words: that those of us who can do the Work take advantage of our situation, because to waste such a gift belittles the opportunity that grants us an open door. But that is yet a social judgment, and I still can’t support it, so I’ll leave you with this:
If you know and can do your Work, you are kindred to everyone else who can and does, regardless of the specifics of the Work. Don’t sweat the small stuff; you are shoulder-to-shoulder with people performing their own brands of magic, and that is a precious thing.