When most of us think of work these days, we think of dealing with stress at school or in the office, about success, about what we can hope to earn. We think about productive work that gets us ahead, and non-productive work, such as caring for the elderly, that holds us back. Even our leisure is serviced by a vast and very profitable industry.
Needless to say, this is a very recent view of work and play, made possible by industrialism. Indeed, the workers' movement that gives us the Labor Day holiday arises directly from the Industrial Revolution. But if we were to take a longer view and say, return to our origins, we would discover a very different way of laboring. Our work as humans was once, not about exploiting, but but about maintaining the balance of life and treasure on earth. Celebration and rest were as important as work and the elderly were those who had lived long enough to bestow the greatest gift of all: the wisdom that gives life.
Certainly in the mythologies of the West, this harmony was lost, and conflict, not conciliation, became the axis of human struggle. Life became more about what I could get than what I could give.
Today, we are in danger of losing the very earth that once so generously gave us life. On this Labor Day, 2007, I would like to share wise words about work and life from the editors of Orion Magazine, a journal of nature, culture and hope.
"'The way to meet the challenge of energy and global climate change," President Bush said earlier this year, 'is through technology.'. . . [But] our culture is way past the point where technology alone can undo the systems, mentalities, and indeed, the old technologies that created these staggering crises in the first place.
"To have altered the planet's atmosphere, to have compromised the lives of every being on the planet -- this is more than technology gone awry. It signals a breakdown in ethics and morality. It is all well and good -- and accurate -- to discuss global warming in terms of science, politics and economics. It is well and good to describe global warming in terms of energy security, survival, and sustainability. But to frame the conversation about energy and global warming without recognizing, first and foremost, that we have no right to risk destroying the planet and its inhabitants is to miss the point."
On this beautiful September day, let us consider what it means to work for healing and wholeness, and how we might give back some of those gifts with which we have been so richly endowed.